Arab music channels and… theological advertising?

The strangest thing happened today.

I was browsing through various web-pages and glancing every now and then at the tv that one of my brothers had tuned to an Arab music channel, Entertainment Television (E Tv) to be exact, when the most peculiar advertisement I’ve seen in a long time started showing.

At first, I didn’t notice it. But, the dialogue and the lines used forced my attention to the screen. Anyhow, the ad. went something like this (imagine this with me now):

[This starts from when I first saw the ad. I have no idea how many seconds, if any, I missed]

A fashionably-dressed, beautiful woman in the back seat of a luxury car with a cell-phone to her ear. She is speaking to her husband, apparently, asking him how his day was and that she’ll see him soon (I think). The expression on her face was a mixture of slight melancholy and tiredness. Next scene, she’s walking into her apartment/home. The place looks simple yet very expensive. Like everything in the apartment is a 10 carat diamond.

She walks across the bedroom, throws a jacket (I think) and her purse on the bed and then goes out to stand in the balcony. She then enters a short soliloquy about how there is something missing from her life. There’s that one thing, without which she is incapable of being happy. She asks God why she isn’t happy and asks Him to help her.

The scene then skips to her walking alongside a wall, towards the camera and a bit to the left of the frame. As she moves closer, the camera turns to the left with her until the camera has turned 90 degrees and we realize there’s a mirror on the wall. When she walks past the mirror, we realize that her reflection is wearing a Hijab and a long-sleeved top (the mirror only shows her upper torso). Again, she is dressed well. The model glances towards the mirror and is obviously surprised by her reflection and audibly expresses her surprise by saying: is that me? Her reflection merely nods at her and smiles.

We then see her in the final scene walking on a sidewalk, taking large steps, smiling and looking content (wearing her Hijab and long-sleeved shirt or top). Then, in arabic font accompanied by a pleasant sounding male voice, we see/hear the phrase: Obeying god is the road to happiness. And the Ad ends.

Before I continue, I will make a few observations concerning the advertisement: The car in the beginning made it seem like the whole thing was an ad for a new BMW or Mercedes; the car was perfectly polished and reflecting what looked like tunnel lights. The interior of the car looked so new and pristine, you could smell the leathery new-car-smell. Everything looked cool, efficient and organized. When you saw the model, it seemed like the ad was a woman’s fashion ad, then possibly one for skin and hair products; she looked that perfect.

The model herself looked like she was in her mid to late twenties. Her face looked young, but not naive or childishly youthful. She looked like a mature young woman.

After the model wore the Hijab there were also differences in the ad; more colors and an increased sense of cheerfulness. Before that, the ad was mostly shades of browns, greys and blacks. After the Hijab, it was all very vivid greens and blues and reds and yellows and oranges (in addition to the deep browns, blacks and whites). The change was subtle, but I noticed it.

The message of the ad was obvious: through the Hijab, you’ll be a happier person. Also, as is obvious, the advertisement targeted the more financially capable segment of society; possibly to transmit the message that you do not have to be poor and conservative in order to wear the Hijab. The model could have been any of the young women that I personally meet and know everyday.

There were a couple of things that surprised me (other than the advertisement as a whole, of course). First of all, the channel is a lebanese one. Second, it’s that same channel that shows the exact same music videos (along with most of the other arabic music channels) that kept the arab world in a constant state of uproar (some say “and the arab world still is”, but there are other matters that have distracted the critics) because of the way female singers sing, dress, dance and behave. What an irony.

What I really want to know is this: who was behind the advertisement? Who paid for something like this? How on earth did E tv management allow such an ad to be aired on their channel?

Having written all this, I feel that this is the part where I critically analyze the whole situation and give my view on the matter. Yet, I find myself incapable of doing so. On the one hand, I am totally and fanatically against the idea that the Hijab is a Fard; i.e. a tennant of the muslim faith that needs to be upheld on par with praying, doing good and observing shariaa laws because the verses from the Quran that are used to support this argument are shady and quite open to interpretation – at best.

On the other hand, since I believe that any person is allowed to do what they wish and express themselves in whatever way they deem fit as long as they do not harm others, I see no problem with the advertisement. Either way, this ad. heralds (to me, at least) a new step taken by Islamic groups or individuals. They might be moderates, almost definitely are considering their choice of media and the way they put forward their advertisement.

Hell, it might even be Hizbullah. I don’t know. But whomever they are, they’ve done it the right way.

And that’s the way I see it.

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3 thoughts on “Arab music channels and… theological advertising?

  1. dear faisal..

    i was just checking out your site after having read your wonderful comment about my article ‘shake off the dust..’– and what began as a routine ‘hmm, i wonder who’s been surfing the antisocialite?’ turned into a big turning point in my life.

    I LOVE YOUR WORK!!! :):):)

    i was literally transfixed, first when i read about the ad and 7egab, and then i kept scrolling down and reading more.

    so, not only do i thank you for your wonderful comment (which i’ll reply to after class today inshallah) but i offer my sincerest and most appreciative, erm, appreciation of your wonderful analysis and coverage of our dear nation.

    you have a fan for life!

    may God bless you richly, and looking forward to reading more!

    til later..
    sally
    πŸ™‚

  2. Sally

    Thanks a lot for your kind comment. Were that everyone is as kind as you when commenting. πŸ™‚

    By the way, your blog is pretty kick ass as well; s’why Ive linked to it on “The way I see it”.

    Either way, keep up the good work.

    Faisal

  3. see sally, faisal is a person i actually know πŸ™‚ we can hang out when ur done with the phd.

    really nice, faisal. those are precisely my sentiments about the issue (and don’t we like most the sentiments that are ours?) as a woman i’m also opposed to the hijab because it’s quite sexist and thank God there’s no risk of me having to wear it, but if someone wants to, and wants to advertise it, they should. interesting development.

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