BEIRUT: Controversy has erupted over the Syrian television series “Omar bin al-Khattab,” broadcast throughout the month of Ramadan by Saudi Arabian satellite channel MBC; some one thousand people have joined a Facebook campaign demanding that the show be taken off the air.
The Facebook page is entitled “No to showing Farouk Omar series,” in reference to the honorific “Farouq” often appended to Omar's name. Omar was a companion of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad; Sunnis also consider him to be the second of four “rightly guided” caliphs.
Visual depictions of the Prophet Mohammad are frowned upon by Muslims, some of whom also believe that his companions should not be depicted pictorially or portrayed by actors.
Comments by the administrators of the Facebook page include, “Let’s stop this farce ... Spread the word to prevent them from attacking our religion .... The series must be stopped ... You must stop them.”
The much-hyped MBC series has also raised the ire of a few Muslim religious figures and organizations, including the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar University.
Addressing the owners of satellite channels, the Saudi mufti said that what they are doing is a crime and accused them of spending their money unwisely, as reported by media outlets.
Despite the complaints about the series, it continues to air and has proven popular among some viewers.
“At first, I wasn’t convinced of the idea that such a leading political and religious figure would be personified. But after watching the series, I felt the opposite. The series has allowed me to discover this one-of a-kind character and provided me with a better understanding of Islam,” Madiha Fakhani, a Lebanese fan of the series, told The Daily Star.
The story begins with Omar, who is born in Mecca, as a boy. After the advent of Islam, Omar works to unite the tribal communities and cleanse the region of corruption and greed, according to the series’ official website. He quickly rises to become one of the most influential figures in Islam and the Arab world.
“Omar bin al-Khattab” is this year’s biggest production by satellite network MBC. It is directed by renowned Syrian TV series director Hatem Ali and stars Syrian actors Mehiar Khadour and Samer Ismail, who portrays Omar.