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June 1st, 2009
Dishing Democracy
Themes and Video Segments

muna, rania, fawzia, farah
photo credit: Kalam Nawaem


ISLAM AND THE WEST: Every Sunday night throughout the Middle East and around the world, millions of viewers tune in to an all-female talk show, Kalam Nawaem. Originally inspired by ABC’s The View, the satellite television program runs the gamut from dishing about husbands and marriage to confronting social and political taboos.

LEGAL ISSUES AND PUBLIC POLICY: The presenters of Kalam Nawaem examine a variety of controversial legal topics in the Middle East, including sex education and the role of women in society. They were among the first on Arab television to discuss homosexuality, which is criminalized throughout most of the Arab world.

CULTURAL TRADITIONS AND MODERN LIFE: While there are important political and cultural changes happening in the Arab world, religious traditions must be addressed when certain sensitive topics are discussed. The anchors of Kalam Nawaem seek to maintain a respectful balance in their discussions.

JOURNALISM AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Before the satellite television revolution, most Arab viewers depended on terrestrial state television, which meant some form of government oversight of everything that went to air. Now with the advent of satellite dishes, independent transnational media is encouraging public discourse in the Arab world.


Segment 1: This segment introduces the hosts of Kalam Nawaem — Fawzia Salama, Rania Barghout, Muna AbuSulayman, and Farah Besiso — and describes the program’s history and impact.

Segment 2: Satellite TV reaches nearly 300 million Arabic speakers worldwide. Even though independent commercial media companies like MBC have bypassed direct government control and national borders, the station still has to monitor what it broadcasts.

Segment 3: A gay man who was invited to be on Kalam Nawaem feared for his life and was interviewed by phone instead.  While a gay man has still not appeared on the program, a famous actor who plays a gay character in the film The Yacoubian Building was a guest in 2007.

Segment 4: Muna AbuSulayman talks about her life as a Muslim feminist and what it’s like for her to appear on Kalam Nawaem.

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