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Modern Muslim Women (3:19) Excerpt from film "Dishing Democracy", August 2007
Introduction to the four personable female stars of a popular television show in the Arab world called "Sweet Talk."

Country: Egypt

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Guiding Questions
  1. Prior to viewing the video segment, spend 3 or 4 minutes brainstorming what you know about or think you know about Muslim women. Write down key words and concepts.

  2. How does this brief introduction to the women of this program compare to the words you have 'brainstormed'?

  3. What is your biggest surprise regarding this clip and what you previously thought about women in the Arab world? Have any of your preconceptions changed?
Background Essay
Fawzia Salama, Rania Barghout, Muna AbuSulayman, and Farah Besiso are the women of Kalam Nawaem, "Sweet Talk." This program is a hugely popular talk show on MBC, the first independent Arabic language satellite TV station. The 60-minute program is watched by millions of viewers across the Arab world and throughout Europe, Africa and the United States.

Prior to 1990, television viewers in the Arab world had to rely upon the state for their programming options. There were not many channels available, and what was available was subject to government oversight. Since 1990, however, satellite TV has emerged as a popular alternative to standard broadcast stations. Currently, there are more than 200 satellite channels available, many of which confront formerly taboo topics such as sex education, homosexuality, domestic abuse, and gender inequality. The dramatic growth in independent journalism has led to live reporting, news analysis, political debates, and talk shows.

MBC was the first independent Arabic satellite television station, and it serves more than 130 million people around the world. One of its most popular shows is Kalam Nawaem, an all-female talk show. (Kalam Nawaem translates to English as Soft Talk, or Sweet Talk.) There are four hostesses who come from different backgrounds, and their goal is to discuss both new and frequent issues in the Arab world.

There are two parts to Kalam Nawaem. First, there is the celebrity feature, a portion of the show where there is an appearance by a celebrity guest. An informal conversation with the guest is followed by questions from the audience. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there is the lively discussion of controversial issues. The hostesses - Lebanese Rania Barghoot, Palestinian Farah Bseiso, Egyptian Dr. Fawziah Salamah, and Saudi Muna Abu Suleiman - hope that bringing these issues to light will create a dialogue about finding solutions that all people will accept and support.

In the episode entitled DISHING DEMOCRACY, WIDE ANGLE goes behind the scenes at Kalam Nawaem to discover how these four hostesses are boldly and effectively encouraging social reform within the Arab world.

The word Kalam Nawaem is the sweet talk. They thought it's only for girls and it's only for women. It's not like this. We are talking about lots of issues.

We spoke about masturbation, we spoke about infidelity, we spoke about incest, we spoke about things that you would not believe that you could speak about in the Arab world and on Arab television.

Kalam Nawaem is a view of life of society from a woman's perspective. And I think this is new.

I think that I help to shift ideas. I'm helping to change the way people think about things.

Kalam Nawaem is a place for women to speak out. I'm very spontaneous I say everything that comes to my mind. I have no taboos; they edit me out a lot.

Muna is the academic, she has this vast knowledge, and experience. And she is kind of the voice of reason in the program.

I represent, you know, the person who is, according to the viewer, a bit conservative, because I would be wearing the hijab. I represent the Gulf region. I was the first woman, on international satellite that was Saudi, and you know, that wore the scarf or wore hijab. And, you know, I like being the first.

Farah is maybe a little timid, she's so sweet, and she's so innocent, and she says everything that comes out.

I don't deal with the viewers as if they are stupid people and I can act on them, they are not. They see you from your eye shine. They can know if you are talking and saying the truth. Or you are lying and bluffing on them.

Fawzia is the voice of wisdom in the program, you know, with the age.

When MBC started, at that time, I probably was one of a kind. I was a prominent woman journalist. And people think of me as the mother figure. And I am very happy to be that.

Fawzia Salama, Rania Barghout, Muna AbuSulayman, and Farah Besiso, these are the women of Kalam Nawaem, Sweet Talk, a hugely popular talk show on MBC, the first independent Arabic language satellite TV station. The 60-minute program, launched in 2002, airs Sunday evening and is watched by millions of viewers across the Arab world and throughout Europe, Africa and the United States.

Related Links
Dishing Democracy on PBS.org

CIA World Factbook: Eqypt

The Middle East Media Research Institute TV Monitor Project

Mosaic-Link TV: World News from the Middle East

Women's Rights and Democracy in the Arab World

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