Thursday, August 21, 2008


not the money governments take off imports - i'm talking about what people agree with each other as being "right". had i not known about the prohibition, i would say it's a typically arab response to anything different than what we're used to be dealing with it: throw our hands up and start screaming that this is "mukhalif lil3adat wataqaleed" (which literally, if poorly, translates into "against habits and customs"). i saw this statement used in response to everything from fashion trends to slutty satellite channels to social interactions.

i agree with my loathing of some of these abhorrent phenomena, because i find them idiotic in themselves. another thing i find idiotic in and of itself is the concept of customs. behold the following questions:

who defines what a custom is?
who defines what is good and bad in said customs?
is there some sort of punishement to custom sinners?
if there is, who has the right to carry it out?
if these customs are so great, why do they change over time?
in fact, why are these customs considered as great in the first place?
can i create a custom custom?

customs are a form of crowd democracy, where things are considered as right and wrong in a most subjective manner that somehow produces a "reaction" (which the democracy uses to enforce its decisions). an example of that is things like social scorn, parental wrath, public outcry and other useless and seemingly senseless reactions. girl holds guy's hand: harlot. dude dressed in baggy jeans: fag. however, if you ask the same judges: what about your sister? oh that guy? they've been dating for 3 years and they're getting engaged next summer. what about your neighbor? who him? no no no he's just a kid he'll grow out of it. what is common to all these reactions is this: they seem to measure the "public" reaction, in other words, almost everyone would instinctively and immediately agree on whether something specific is right or wrong without getting all the details.

with me so far? good, here comes the crux.

enter nour. nour is a turkish soap opera that was dubbed into arabic recently. it was (is) one of the most popular tv shows in the arab world. nour is a cute chick who's the star, plus muhannad is her estranged lover/husband/boyfriend or some shit or they’re still kicking it or were or... i mean i don’t know but the names are important. nour took the tv channels by storm. the actors became instant stars, the shoot location is a touristic attraction, you get all sorts of nour merch in the market. fucking baby names nour and muhannad are the most popular now. saudi muftis decried it as an evil sin and influence and the work of the devil. there’s a special pay-per-view channel that will play you the episodes a day before the public one will. another by-product of its fame is experts who start voicing opinions about it.

one discussion i heard was why it is so popular. something about it depicting nice turkish scenery, attractive people with complex love lives, intimate relationships not available in arab families and a host of other things. what do you think the common sentence after every opinion is? yup, “nour is popular, but the reasons of its popularity are against our customs”. really? nour is not watched by young rebellious teenagers, it’s watched by the common people. by families, by the average joe, by the very person whose lifestyle defines customs.

which brings me to my point: it seems that the lifestyle alternative to our customs is more attractive than the reality. in other words, these things we decry as against our customs are what make the show so attractive; this escape from our reality to theirs is what makes the show so attractive.

so going back to my question, who defines what a custom is?

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