Muslim Group Decries 'Blasphemous' Arab-Themed TV Drama

    Statement that appears at the beginning of each episode, noting that the drama is entirely fictional.

    (23 August) An Islamic
    advocacy group has called for a ban on the TV drama ?Where the Sky Meets the Sand (Fah Jarod
    in Thai)?, alleging that it depicts Muslims in a bad light.

    Muslim Group For Peace
    said in its statement that the drama has misunderstood the followers of Islam, portraying Muslims
    as being cruel toward women and children, and airing lasphemous contents about the Islamic

    The drama airs on the state-owned Channel 7, one of the ?free TV? channels in

    The group, based in Bangkapi District of Bangkok, revealed that it had filed
    complaints to Mr. Anudith Nakornthap, Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT),
    the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commision (NBTC), and the producers of the series,
    Bangkok Broadcasting & TV Co., Ltd.

    The drama has offended the feelings of Muslim people
    … We believe that if the Ministry [of ICT] allowed the TV-Series to air further, it may have
    caused wider and unexpected consequences, the statement reads.

    It concludes: It would be
    best to stop airing the series as soon as possible

     ‘Where the Sky Meets the Sand’ is
    based on the novel of the same name, written by the novelist Sopak Suwan in 1961.

    The novel
    told the story through the point of view of its main female character ‘Michelle’, a
    half-French-half-Asian woman, who travels to a fictional country called ‘Hilfara’ with her Muslim
    best friend ‘Kachfiya’. Hilfarah is depicted as an empire in the desert ruled by King

    Kachfiya was destined by an astrologer to be married to the king, but she refuses and
    insists her love to her French beau ‘Robert’. Kachfiya then plans to send Michelle to her destined
    groom instead of her.

    However, on the night Michelle travels to the palace, Prince Oman
    decided to overthrow his elder brother. Michelle is then saved by the King’s Bodyguard ‘Shareef’,
    who is also the third in line to the throne. The couple adventures in the desert throughout the the
    story before Shareef finally kills Prince Oman.

    Heated argument started on the Muslim Group
    for Peace’s Facebook page, as many fans of the series stormed in to call for explanation of the
    group′s ill feeling toward the drama. The popular webforum Pantip is also full of discussions about
    the matter. 

    The Muslim group says it is particularly incensed by the perception that
    Hilfara′s Muslim citizens restrict women from having education which, they say, is in contrast to
    Muslim belief.

    On Pantip, some netizens discussed about the statement, and cited the phrase
    from books which Michelle said “I heard that in the country where Kachfiya came from, they do not
    think it is appropriate to provide women education”. Many people argued that the phrase referred to
    a Country (Hilfara), not a belief.

    Moreover, they pointed out, Hilfara was an imaginary
    Country, depicted by the novelist who wrote the story over 50 years ago.

    The series producers
    certainly took pain to stress its fictional setting. At the beginning of the show, a message is
    displayed stating that  the drama is a fictional story based on the novel, and the producers
    try their best to stick to the material in the novel.

    The statement continues that the
    producers are willing to take any criticism against any mistake in the series. At the end of each
    episode, a message also thanks the Thai Islamic Centre for its suggestions on the

    Moreover, some netizens argued that it is true that women are not allowed to go
    to school in some Muslim societies, citing the case of Malala Yousafzi, the Pakistani girl targeted
    by Taliban death squads for her women education campaign.

    So far, the Muslim Group for Peace
    did not release any further statement explaining how the TV series insulted Muslim

    The producer of ?Where the Sky Meets the Sand?, Mr. Siam Sangwaributr, has told
    our correspondent that he has already received the complaint, but he needs more time before he can
    comment about the matter. The public relations staff

    at Channel 7 also refuse to comment on the Muslim group′s complaint.

    But Ms. Usamanee
    Waitayanon, the famous actress who plays ?Michelle? in the drama, denied that the series is
    blasphemous toward Islam. According to the actress, the production team was so sensitive throughout
    the filming that they even removed the part when she accidentally exclaimed Oh,

    Please don?t connect it to religion. We Thais love all religions, Ms. Usamanee said.

    Meanwhile, ?Where the Sky Meet the Sand? was
    also attacked by a well-known director for its unrealistic representation. Mr. Chookiat “Ma-Deow”
    Sakveerakul, wrote on his Facebook page that, for example, “The film is based on Arab culture, but
    the Art Direction in the series was inspired by Roman culture”

    Nothing in the series is
    Muslim art, even the house and the palace … What a shame!”

    He also said that he was surprised
    to hear I, the servant of the Lord Buddha in the series, referring to moment when Shareef spoke to
    King Ahmed. The phrase is normally used in addressing the Thai (Buddhist) monarchs.

    director of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed film Love of Siam continued that
    he production team should not think that their audience is stupid, because they are not.”