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Arab TV-Audiences

Negotiating Religion and Identity

Ehab Galal

Today the relations between Arab audiences and Arab media are characterised by pluralism and fragmentation. More than a thousand Arab satellite TV channels alongside other new media platforms are offering all kinds of programming. Religion has also found a vital place as a topic in mainstream media or in one of the approximately 135 religious satellite channels that broadcast guidance and entertainment with an Islamic frame of reference. How do Arab audiences make use of mediated religion in negotiations of identity and belonging? The empirical based case studies in this interdisciplinary volume explore audience-media relations with a focus on religious identity in different countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, and the United States.
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Watching the history of the ‘present’: Religion and national identity in the Egyptian diaspora



During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2010, an Egyptian drama series or musalsal entitled al-Gama‘a [The Group] aired in Egypt and the Arab World focusing on the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, the Muslim Brotherhood. The series, which was partially sponsored by the state-run television, was initially perceived by commentators to delegitimize the contemporary leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood while highlighting the important – if not misguided – role of the founder of the group Hassan al-Banna in the 1920s. The 2010 musalsal was set between two time periods: the first, took place in 2006, only a year after the Brotherhood’s gains in parliamentary elections, while the second time period historicised the roots of the organisation, narrating the life of the founder and its spiritual guide [murshid], Hasan al-Banna. Like many musalsalat [plural form of musalsal] before it, al-Gama‘a caused great controversy, which outlasted its 28 episodes and the duration of Ramadan.

By 2010, the Brotherhood, an eighty-year-old organisation, had pragmatically negotiated a public space for itself in the political arena, despite being banned since 1954. The turbulent image that had dominated the Brotherhood in previous generations was slowly being eroded and under President Hosni Mubarak the organisation actively played an important and vibrant role in the social, economic and political life of Egypt (Fahmy 2002: 86–87). In the parliamentary elections of 1984 and 1987, the Muslim Brotherhood, though officially still a banned party, ran ‘independent’ candidates who won a significant percentage of seats. During the...

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