Soap Dish: Turkish Drama Promotes Female Equality In The Arab WorldA Turkish soap, Noor, which flopped when it first ran in its native country has become a syndication sensation in the Arab world. The reason for the show's popularity is threefold; the use of colloquial Arab subtitles (as opposed to the stilted classical Arabic translations customarily employed) and the leading man, 24-year-old Turkish actor and model Kivanc Tatlitu. "It seems most viewers are female," said Hana Rahman, who runs an Arab entertainment blog (waleg.com). "They're so swept away by the main character. He's become a heartthrob here. He has even caused divorce cases in Saudi Arabia." But perhaps most importantly, Tatlitu's character shows Arab women a model of marital equality sorely lacking in many of their lives.The family drama serves as source of escapism for many Arab women trapped in a rigid patriarchal society. '"Our men are rugged and unyielding," quipped a 26-year-old housewife who preferred to remain unnamed. "I wake up and see a cold and detached man lying next to me, I look out the window and see dust. It is all so dull. On Noor, I see beautiful faces, the beautiful feelings they share and beautiful scenery."' Explains Haaretz, the character is not merely handsome but "romantic, attentive to his wife Noor, supportive of her independence and ambitions as a fashion designer - in short, a rare gem for women in conservative, male-dominated surroundings," presenting an idealized portrait of a marriage between equal partners. Not shockingly, some religious leaders are less than enthused about the show's wild popularity. "Any channel that helps to further perpetuate the popularity of these shows is ultimately a warrior against God and his Prophet," said Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Al Shaikh. "It is not permitted to watch Turkish series ... They are replete with wickedness, evil, moral collapse and war on virtues that only God knows the truth of." He might have cause for worry; "I told my husband, 'learn from him (Mohannad) how he treats her, how he loves her, how he cares about her', said Heba Hamdan, 24, a housewife visiting the West Bank from Amman, Jordan. Married straight out of college, she said the show inspired her to go out and look for a job." Turkish Soap Opera Wins Arab Hearts[Gulf News] 'Un-Islamic' Turkish Soap Opera All The Rage In West Bank, Gaza[Haaretz]