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Kuwait channel apologizes for animated series

Comedy deemed insulting to Moroccan women

The Kuwaiti channel al-Watan apologized to Moroccans for the animated comedy series Bu Qatada and Bu Nabeel which sparked outrage for its improper depiction of Moroccan women.

The Kuwaiti daily newspaper al-Watan, which is affiliated to the channel, issued a formal apology on its front page under the title "All love and respect for Morocco."

According to the paper, the series did not mean to offend Moroccans.

"The series focuses on criticism of Kuwaitis in the first place," the paper wrote. "This episode focused on their behavior in Morocco."

The series, based on caricatures from the daily newspaper al-Watan and aired on the Kuwaiti al-Watan channel, was met with angry reactions on the part of all Moroccans, officials, activists, and youths alike.

Kuwaiti animated comedy series Bu Qatada and Bu Nabeel sparked outrage in Morocco for what critics call improper depiction of Moroccan women prompting officials and rights activists accused the creators of the show of intentional slander.

Minister of Telecommunications and spokesman of the Moroccan government Khaled al-Nasseri condemned the series and stated that the government will take the necessary steps to follow up on the issue.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to manipulate Moroccans in this way even on a private Arab channel," he told Al Arabiya.

Bu Qatada and Bu Nabeel, based on caricatures from the daily newspaper al-Watan and aired on the Kuwaiti al-Watan channel, features in its eighth episode the two main characters in the show visiting the southwestern Moroccan city of Agadir to meet two Moroccan girls.

The mother of the two girls is shown pouring a magic potion into the coffee she serves the two men in order to put a spell on them and make sure they marry her daughters.

The previous episode also contained several references to Morocco that made it seem like a country based on sorcery, dancing, and moral laxity.

"Moroccan people have their pride and dignity," Nasseri added. "The government will take the necessary steps to stand up for Moroccans, whether women or men."

Activists slam series

Rights activists argue that the series aimed at showing Moroccan women as witches who would do anything to trap men from the Gulf region.

Bassima Haqawi, head of Women Awareness Revival Organization, said the insult was intentional.

"If it was not intentional why was the name of Morocco specified in the series?" she told Al Arabiya.

Haqawi added that the women in the series do not represent Moroccan women and that if incidents involving witchcraft do take place, they are extremely rare.

"They made a generalization which reflects how many from the Gulf look at Moroccan women. This negative perception of Moroccan women has been promoted on a lot of online forums in the Gulf for a long time."

Haqawi, who is also an MP for the opposition Justice and Development Party, said the Moroccan government should not stand silent while Moroccan women are being humiliated.

"Moroccan women have become an example all Arab women follow. They have gone a long way as far as their social and economic rights are concerned and they have to be respected."

Haqawi also called upon Gulf governments in general and Kuwait in particular to interfere in order to correct the faulty image citizens in the Gulf have of Moroccan women.

They made a generalization which reflects how many from the Gulf look at Moroccan women. This negative perception of Moroccan women has been promoted on a lot of online forums in the Gulf for a long time

Activist MP Bassima Haqawi

Unprecedented incident

Dr. Hassan Qoronful, an expert in sociology, said the incident is unprecedented in the Arab world since this is the first time a series from one Arab country insults the people of another.

"We are used to the fact that Arab channels respect the people of other Arab countries as far as the content of their shows is concerned," he told Al Arabiya. "We have never witnessed insults before."

Qoronful added that although the series tackles an issue that is only applicable to a minority of Moroccan women, it sill insults all of Morocco's 30 million population.

"When they portray Morocco as a den of sorcery and superstition they are hurting everyone."

When asked about the use of witchcraft amongst Moroccan women, Qoronful replied that Morocco grants all citizens, men and women, absolute freedom.

"Very few women abuse this, but at the end it is their personal freedom, which is what several Arab countries don't grasp and are shocked to see."

When they portray Morocco as a den of sorcery and superstition they are hurting everyone

Sociologist Hassan Qoronful

Moroccan youths launched several campaigns on the social networking website Facebbook, calling for an end to the series and demand an official apology from Kuwait.

"Together for banning Bu Qatada and Bu Nabeel" and "Together against the Kuwaiti insult of Moroccans" are amongst the names given to the online campaigns that reflect the outrage caused by the series in Morocco.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)