Ramadan TV Special Sends Anti-Terrorism Message During the holy month of Ramadan, millions of Muslims will gather nightly to feast with their family and friends. That also translates into the biggest primetime viewing audience across the Arab world. One blockbuster TV special, Renegades, will send this message: Terrorists kill Muslims, too.
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Ramadan TV Special Sends Anti-Terrorism Message

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Ramadan TV Special Sends Anti-Terrorism Message

Ramadan TV Special Sends Anti-Terrorism Message

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Muslim views of the war on terrorism are of great interest to the United States as it tries to win hearts and minds in the Middle East. Conversations about terrorism in that region are often loud and heated.

As NPR's Deborah Amos reports, they can touch on religious extremism, the morality of suicide bombers and the dangers of al-Qaida.

DEBORAH AMOS: Syrian television director Najdat Anzour lights another cigarette, sweeps back his silver-gray hair and pushes the play button on the bank of monitors in his living room.

(Soundbite of music)

AMOS: Anzour's drama called Renegades will be broadcast later this month during Ramadan. It's a time when Muslims fast during daylight hours. They gather at night to feast with family and friends, which means the biggest primetime viewing audience across the Arab world.

Mr. NAJDAT ANZOUR (Television director, Syria): I think this will be the hit of this year because I think the idea will reach the minds of the people.

AMOS: Anzour is known for controversial blockbusters. Last year's special tackled al-Qaida and radical recruiters in Saudi Arabia. Fifty million viewers watched across the Arab world. This year, Anzour is attacking terrorism from a different angle.

Mr. ANZOUR: We start from the England. We have the seven of July bombs and what happened there reflected for the Muslim communities.

AMOS: Anzour's not too subtle message - terrorists are cold-blooded killers who also kill Muslims.

The opening episode features a Muslim family, British citizens. The eldest son, a religious man, is missing on the day of the bombings, presumed to be part of the plot by the police and by the family's English speaking neighbors.

(Soundbite of Renegades)

Unidentified Woman #1: The threat is not coming from outside this country, but from within from its British citizens.

Mr. ANZOUR: So just because he is a Muslim and missing, so they thought that he's one of the bombers.

AMOS: The central theme of the series is delivered by the fictional mother, Mona, in a plea she makes to British reporters.

(Soundbite of Renegades)

Unidentified Woman #2: Terrorists are killing Muslims, too. How come in the name of Islam they kill Muslims who believe in Allah? I am calling to all faiths, all religions to join together and defeat terrorism.

AMOS: This Ramadan special moves from London, Madrid, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, even Iraq - places that figure in the West's war on terrorism -dramatizing events that affect the Muslim world, too, says Anzour.

Mr. ANZOUR: You see what happens in Iraq now. You don't know who's right, who's wrong. This bad situation. We have to get out from this bad situation. I'm against killing the civilians anywhere in the world.

AMOS: That sentiment is expressed in many ways across the Middle East.

(Soundbite of keyboard)

AMOS: Ahmad Humeid is the editor of toot.com and Jordan Planet Internet blog sites. [Post-broadcast correction: Ahmad Humeid has a blog site itoot.net, not toot.com]

Mr. AHMAD HUMEID(ph): And basically our idea was to create a community of Arab bloggers.

AMOS: A new form of open expression that is growing, says Humeid.

Mr. HUMEID: For a young person to express him or herself freely, okay, on a medium that is actually read by people, and it's being read by an increasing number of people, okay. I think it is something revolutionary.

AMOS: When a sniper opened fire on Western tourists in the Jordanian capital earlier this month, bloggers shared their disgust and their fears. One blogger wrote, "It seems unreal to me that the world was ever safe, walking into a mall without being frisked, not having to look nervously when a bearded man walks by."

Last year, suicide bombers killed Jordanians and Palestinians in attacks on three hotels. It was a wakeup call, says journalist and blogger Randa Habib.

Ms. RANDA HABIB (Journalist, Blogger): Those who were killed in November 2005 in the hotels in Amman were old Muslims, I mean, all Jordanians or Palestinians who were there. And obviously they knew who the target would be. I mean when you go to a wedding of a Palestinian/Jordanian family, what do you expect, who would you expect be the guest? CIA people? I mean for God's sake. So it didn't matter anymore. The enemy is within and this is where it's becoming dangerous.

AMOS: The bombings brought the violence home, says Marwan Muasher, a former cabinet minister. He acknowledges that many Jordanians were silent for far too long when suicide bombers targeted Israel.

Mr. MARWAN MUASHER (Former Jordanian Cabinet Minister): First because it was directed against Israelis, and the center thought that if they opposed this they would in a way sanctioning the Israeli occupation.

AMOS: Then came Iraq, he says. And Jordan's silent majority believed condemning suicide attacks there would sanction what they saw as an American occupation.

Mr. MUASHER: The culture now has come to Arab capitals and Arab cities and the time has come for the silent majority to speak up. The people who are killed are civilians, Arab civilians.

AMOS: Support for terrorism is falling among Arab and European Muslims. That's what the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes opinion poll shows. But when asked who is responsible for the violence, well, the answers get complicated, says John Waterbury, president of American University in Beirut.

Mr. JOHN WATERBURY (American University, Beirut): They show a kind of dialogue of the depth between Islam and the West.

AMOS: The poll studies how Westerners and Muslims view each other. With continued war in Afghanistan and Iraq, an overwhelming number in the West say the Muslim world is violent. It's the same answer Muslims give about the West, says Waterbury.

Mr. WATERBURY: It seems to me we're agreed that violence is a bad thing. We may share many of the same values. We just don't think those values are being honored by the other side.

(Soundbite of countdown and gunshots)

AMOS: The bullets shot on the set of this television series are blanks. This violence is part of the storyline of Renegades, the drama that raises questions about the morality of suicide attacks, religious fundamentalism and terrorism that kills Muslims.

Mr. MARLIN DICK (Journalist): It's provocative, but you hear it a lot.

AMOS: Marlin Dick is a media journalist on the set.

Mr. DICK: If you're not relevant then you'll lose viewers. So there's always pressure. And to be credible you have to take on these issues and questions.

AMOS: So the discussion here is bigger than we think.

Mr. DICK: It's pretty loud, it's pretty loud.

(Soundbite of applause)

AMOS: Deborah Amos, NPR News.

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