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Arabs Soak Up Turkish Soap Operas

Semih Idiz writes about the popularity of Turkish soap operas in the Arab world, and the reaction these shows are provoking in Turkey.
Actress Songul Oden (C), who plays the main character in the Turkish soap opera "Noor", waves as she leaves after her visit to an Islamic orphan house in Beirut September 8, 2008. The show which flopped when first broadcast in its native Turkey three years ago has taken the Arab world by storm, provoking a flood of Gulf Arab tourists to Turkey that even includes royalty. Picture taken September 8, 2008.  REUTERS/Hussam Shbaro   (LEBANON)

Whether Turkey’s secular parliamentary democracy provides a model for Arabs clamoring for a democratic future remains an open question. Turkey’s cultural influence spreading across the Middle East, with social implications that anger Islamists, however, is indisputable.

Take Egypt, for example, which many thought would be inspired by the Turkish model. When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Egyptians in September 2011 that they should not fear secularism — a statement that also surprised Turkish secularists given his Islamist credentials — he was immediately censured by the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood who eventually came to power in that country.

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