Indian dramas influencing impressionable Afghan minds
KABUL (PAN): Abdul Shakoor, 55, was worried when he saw his 10-year-old daughter worshipping a plastic doll, "My child learnt this from Indian drama serials aired by local TV channels," he says, complaining the telecasts are promoting Hinduism among impressionable Afghan children.
But the channels have largely ignored the religious scholars' demand. There are about 26 private TV channels in Kabul alone, airing uncritically Indian movies, dramas and other programmes.
"I asked my daughter why she was imitating Hindus. She replied she was asking the doll to help her brother have a safe and nice trip," Shakoor said. The Indian programmes are aired with Pashto and Dari translations, the two main languages spoken across Afghanistan.
Apart from being misguided, children tend to move away from their pristine Afghan culture. "We cannot stop our kids watching these serials, which are aired at night and repeated in the morning," he added.
"One day, I got angry with my daughter. All of a sudden, she packed up her bag and said she wanted to leave her home for good -- a reaction induced by Indian movies," said Roya Miskinyar, a 42-year-old female teacher at the Al-Fateh School.
The programmes turn students away from school. "Children love to think about actors and actresses and replicate their styles in daily activities and dealing with each other," said Qadria Azizi, a resident of the Macro Ryan neighbourhood.
Advisor to the Ministry of Information and Culture Jalal Noorani confirmed receiving complaints from Kabul residents. They did ask the private channels to stop screening the objectionable serials, but their request fell on deaf ears, he lamented.
But noted culturist Asadullah Ghazanfar believed the information ministry's action was not enough. "The ministry, exercising its powers, must take more serious steps to better discharge its responsibility."
No country in the world would allow such a blatant cultural invasion as was being seen in Afghanistan, he continued. Negative effects of these movies could be witnessed in bazaars, marriage parties and other functions, Ghazanfar said.
Although Article 45 of the Afghan media law prevents the promotion of religions other than Islam, the authorities concerned have failed to implement it. As a consequence of this failure, unwholesome Indian programmes continue to be shown.
According to the ministry, all serials cannot be banned because television channels generate their revenues and attract viewers by screening them and other commercials.
Ulema Council head, Qayamuddin Kashaaf, viewed the Indian serials as a tool of propagating Hinduism in the predominantly Muslim country. The council had repeatedly presented its standpoint to the president and the information ministry, he claimed.
"We are not authorised to prevent the screening of such programmes; we can just float suggestions for banning them. Unfortunately, the information ministry is taking no action."
Syed Mustafa Mahmood, an official of the private Yek TV channel, suggested all "imported programmes" must be thoroughly scrutinised and approved by the ministry before they were aired. He urged private channel owners to focus on showing Islamic programmes.
Afghanistan's Psychologist Association chief, Syed Ahmad Shah Sharifi, said: "While watching different characters, children felt inclined to copy them."
In 2005, the government set up a monitoring commission to check violations of Afghan media laws and thwart attempts at promoting religions other than Islam. The panel, however, has failed to make its presence felt.
The commission chief, Mohammad Wahid Gharwal, said they banned the telecast of Indian drama serials 18 months ago, a move backed by the attorney general's office. But private TV channels disregarded the ban, he concluded.
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