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April 21, 2003

Saudi TV Battle Pits Clerics Against Lebanese Women

As I have long believed, babes trump all things. Even in The Kingdom.
[...]But forget local television. Young Saudi men can take their pick of satellite shows, aimed largely at the conservative kingdom, that feature Arab women in attire considered scandalously scanty by Saudi standards (news - web sites). They can even ring in and talk to them.

In Sunday night's "Carla-la-la" on Lebanese LBC television, the camera lingers on Scandinavian-looking presenter Carla Haddad as she receives calls from around the region requesting songs and complimenting her on her beauty.

At least half the calls come from Saudi Arabia. Occasionally they are cut off for comments that threaten to descend into lewdness.

On Thursdays, Saudis can tune in to LBC's "Ya Lail Ya Ain," a quiz show with three young men facing three young women with music, dance and lots of flirting from the two presenters.

"Ya Lail Ya Ain," whose liberal Lebanese attitudes contrast starkly with the strict dress codes and gender segregation in a purist Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, has provoked an outcry.

"This program is based on relations between men and women and in the long run this will affect the nature of relations between men and women outside marriage," said Juweir. "It could lead to extra-marital relations."

Sixty percent of Saudi advertisers stipulate that their advertisements should not appear during the program, said Younes, though that has not stopped the odd Gulf pop star appearing in some episodes to cavort with the Lebanese women.

"Saudis will not admit that they love LBC because it's seen as embarrassing," Younes said.

But some Saudis do own up. "Carla, she's the best one," admitted 23-year-old Nadim al-Harby shyly. "I like her look."[more]