Sunday, March 15, 2009

Algeria begins Islamic satellite TV channel

The Algerian government will launch a first-of-its-kind religious TV station this month, intended to satisfy the programming demands of a large cross-section of citizens and enhance national religious identity.

Officials from the ministries of communications and religious affairs, charged with implementing the project, are engaged in meetings to make the final arrangements for the channel's launch.

"The new TV station will air religious programmes presented by Algerian Muslim scholars who will offer fatwas and preaching that are in line with the Maliki School adopted in Algeria," said Minister of Communication Azzedine Mihoubi. (see picture)

The new satellite channel, which will initially broadcast eight hours per day, fills in a large gap in broadcasting that has led many Algerians to watch religious TV channels from the Gulf. Much of the programming on these stations differs from the school of Imam Malik Ben Anas, reports Said Jameh for Magharebia in Algiers. We suspect the channel also wants to counter the impact of Arabic Christian channels like LifeTV and Miracle Channel.

"The mission of the new station is to preserve the religious authority of the state, as represented in the Maliki School, which is now threatened by the surge in Salafist thought," explained Minister of Religious Affairs and Waqf Bouabdellah Ghlamallah.

Ada Felahi, media advisor with the religious affairs ministry, told Magharebia the new channel is hoped to be "an icon of moderation and a platform for disseminating correct religious ideology".

He noted that the station's religious discourse centres on "highlighting the values of tolerance and peacefulness and forsaking destructive ideas", with the greater goal of "achieving security and inviting terrorists to return to their senses".

Algeria also operates Radio Qur'an, a station that broadcasts diverse religious programmes, recitations from the Qur'an, and interpretation of the Hadiths over the airwaves. The radio station, through special programming presented by Algerian and foreign Muslim scholars, has helped convince several terrorists to forsake violence and return to society.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has long encouraged imams and other leaders to speak out against terrorism.The new TV channel is part of a comprehensive national programme to launch specialised channels, such as one featuring Amazigh culture and language, another targeting children, and a third with scientific programming.

The first to appear on the religious station's programming will be prominent Algerian scholars and preachers.

Salima, a 38-year-old homemaker, follows "Fatawa Ala Al Hawaa" every Thursday on the first national channel, where she can inquire about religious matters. The new channel will allow her to communicate better with Algerian Muslim scholars.

"Launching such a channel will lead to having cassette tapes for the fatwas of Algerian scholars that are in conformity with the Maliki School adopted across the country. This, in turn, will limit the invasion of foreign cassette tapes," said Abderrahmane Sadaoui, a seller of religious cassette tapes.

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