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Published: Thursday December 18, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday December 18, 2014 MYT 7:07:25 AM

So, what do you want to watch?

Trying to determine if a TV programme is threatening to one’s faith can be a real challenge.

YOU can read very interesting things in the news these days, some of which can be rather puzzling. At a conference on entertainment and Islam recently, a paper presenter said that many people have asked him how to tell if a TV programme is threatening or not to their faith.

I really had to wonder who these people were and why this was such a problem. Most people can tell within five minutes of watching a programme whether it’s any good or not.

Perhaps it is harder to tell if an interesting programme, say about the mating habits of bees, will shake your faith but what most sensible people do is to see if it makes them feel uncomfortable or not.

If it does, then their faith is probably shaky. And the most obvious thing to do is naturally to switch it off.

I don’t particularly like scary horror type programmes not because I think they would shake my faith but because I don’t find them enjoyable. So I switch channels to something more innocuous like Downton Abbey.

Apparently in Victorian times, nobody ever does any public displays of affection so I reckon that’s pretty safe for anyone.

But the paper presenter actually spent a lot of time thinking about these questions from people presumably without on/off buttons on their TVs nor channel-changing remote controls. So he then proposed that all TV programmes should carry halal and haram certificates.

OK, all those who volunteer to certify the haram programmes, please put up your hands!

What would probably happen is that 90% of the programmes will wind up in one way or another with a haram certificate while the rest would be deemed kosher.

That is probably because the criteria for halalness is going to be very strict and long. How long should the tudung be? How tight can her sleeves be? How many sequins is too much? Is that a hipster or a halal beard? These are all questions to be decided by arguably the least hip people in the country.

But the scenario that plays in my mind is this.

Here is a Muslim household where the head of the family, a man of course, is sitting in front of the TV feeling somewhat guilty about the choice of channels he has before him.

He thinks he should just watch the religious programmes but really he would rather watch the hot Indonesian or Latin American actresses on all those never-ending soap operas. But no matter what he does he keeps being tempted to switch back to those channels.

He sits there chained to his armchair unable to move from in front of the TV, hapless at all the choice in front of him. During the Olympics the problem is worst. There’s women’s beach volleyball, women’s swimming, women’s gymnastics. What threats to his faith!

Of course women are not so threatened by this terrible dilemma because they are busy cooking, cleaning, helping the kids do their homework that they simply have no time to watch the TV.

Besides they’ve already been warned that during the World Cup they are not to watch any matches because the sight of those nice athletic long legs might do something bad to their insides.

Still, wives have been blamed too for not switching the channels for their husbands from women in swimsuits to women in hijab.

But the men, seated with their t-shirts pulled tight over their big nasi-lemak-filled bellies, are at real risk. They are helpless.

They cannot get out of their seats and go do something else, like go for a walk, play with their kids, help their wives with the washing up. They are stuck and therefore their faith is endangered. Hence, the need to have a whole conference to discuss this.

Meanwhile there is a huge financial scandal that is threatening to turn the entire population into paupers, climate change is causing floods, mudslides and turning people out of their homes by the dozens, there are hungry and homeless people in our streets, more and more poverty in our faces today. And the siege in Sydney means yet again Muslims are going to be stereotyped as terrorists.

But none of these are as important as which TV programmes will get us to heaven and which will not. And whose fault it is really for producing programmes which put us on the fast-track to hell.

I’m going to spend my time either reading, watching good dramas on TV and going out to visit friends for Christmas. In fact the only thing worth watching is actually my waistline.

Meanwhile may I wish everyone Merry Christmas and a new year that is more hopeful, joyful and peaceful than 2014 was!

> Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good.” Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.

Tags / Keywords: Musings, Marina Mahathir

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