in the cross hairs

Somalia: New TV series ‘Arday’ draws ire for ‘violating’ Islamic values

By Mohamed Sheikh Nor

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Posted on May 26, 2023 07:57

 © Producer and cameraman for Somalia’s controversial ‘Arday’ TV series, Ahmed Farah.
Producer and cameraman for Somalia’s controversial ‘Arday’ TV series, Ahmed Farah.

There has been a lot of public criticism and outcry about the television show Arday (student in Somali) – a number of civil society organisations have called for the immediate suspension of the show as soon as its episodes began airing on local TV stations in Mogadishu. They claim that it violates ethics, adversely affects the education system in Somalia, and that it is contrary to both Somali cultural values and Islamic values.

“We call for the immediate suspension of this film and Bile TV should apologise for its conduct,” said the statement from several civil society organisations and Islamic scholars, naming the television network that airs Arday.

As one of the first series produced and broadcast by a local television channel since the fall of the central government in 1991, it aimed to educate and entertain Somalis both within and outside Somalia.

However, civil society groups say the film is an ‘invasion from the outside’ designed to destroy the country’s education system. “Those behind it want to hurt Somali kids’ chances of getting what they’re looking for in life,” said the statement. The release of the TV series coincides with the period that schools are preparing for annual exams.

Sheikh Mohamed Abshir, one of the Islamic scholars behind the statement, says they held a meeting with the Bile TV management to urge them not to air the series on their channel.

According to Ashbir, the series encourages students to disobey their parents, become gangsters, violates the dress code for Somali girls in school and encourages men and women to hug and shake hands in a manner contrary to Islamic law.

“This film portrays the country’s system in a negative manner; we denounce it [in the strongest terms],” says Abshir.

Artistic expression

Controversy surrounding creative works is not uncommon, and it is understandable that some may have concerns or criticisms regarding the TV series, says Arday director Ahmed Farah Saïd.

“While we respect the opinions of those who may have concerns or criticisms, we also believe in the value of creative expression and its ability to inspire and empower individuals,” Farah tells The Africa Report.

We remain committed to producing high-quality content that serves the best interests of the Somali people

Farah says they did not consult the ministry beforehand to avoid creative restrictions, but emphasises that they strove to ensure that the series is accurate and informative.

“We believe that creative expression is an essential tool for educating and inspiring individuals, and we remain committed to producing high-quality content that serves the best interests of the Somali people,” Farah says.

Best intentions, but still attacked

The aim of Arday was to achieve multiple objectives, according to Farah. First, he says he wanted to educate and entertain Somali youth both within and outside of their country.

Secondly, the team hoped to showcase the country’s stability through film and television.

Farah was also hoping to spread awareness about possibilities within the education sector to motivate and empower Somali youth to strive for a better future.

“Having all these intentions in mind, we didn’t expect this film to be criticised so harshly by some of the civil society groups and people in the education sector. On the other hand, we enjoy the support of the majority of the population, who are in favour,” says Farah.

Somali students have divergent opinions

Somali students have expressed differing opinions regarding the TV series. Some support it, while others oppose the premise upon which it is based.

Fadumo Dahir, a high school student in Mogadishu, says he is not a fan of the series.

“My dislike for the series is because it doesn’t depict Somali students’ conditions,” says Dahir, adding that he does not like “how they treat their parents, which is a mixture of disrespect, disobedience, and lack of grace. They even lie about our dress code in schools, which is veils instead of shirts and a slit headscarf that exposes the neckline”.

However, Ahmed Muhyadin, a student from another high school in Mogadishu, says the TV show is excellent as it depicted the characters to their full potential.

“I’m not aware of the concerns and uncertainties that other people have raised about the series, but in my opinion, the movie was well directed and provided a realistic representation of our daily lives,” he tells The Africa Report.

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