Arab world binges on religious harmony

From The Christian Science Monitor:

The people of the Middle East are quite used to the many attempts over decades to reconcile Jews and Arabs. Yet nothing has been tried on such a mass scale as a drama series being shown on one of the Arab world’s most popular TV channels during this year’s month of Ramadan. Since the series began to air in April over the Saudi-backed MBC station, it has dominated viewership ratings at a time when Arab families gather around a television in the evening. The drama “Um Haroun,” or “Mother of Aaron,” centers on a Jewish nurse living in an Arabian Gulf country in the 1940s. She and other Jews live peacefully in a village with Muslims and Christians as she lovingly brings health care to all. While the show has plenty of village intrigue, it depicts interreligious harmony before the 1948 creation of modern Israel and the later rise of intolerant Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda.

While the drama was filmed before the COVID-19 outbreak, its producers note its timely message: “Today, the world’s sentiment is no longer ‘us vs. them,’ but more ‘we are all in this together.’” Its popularity among Arab viewers coincides with current trends in the region that signal a desire to overcome the sectarian divides that have driven wars, corruption, and poverty. Last year’s youthful protests in Iraq and Lebanon, for example, were driven by calls to end government systems in which power is divvied up by religious groups. A survey of opinion in both countries revealed nearly three-quarters of people resent the use of religion for political advantage.

More here.