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The New Arab Staff

Saudi Arabia cancels ‘polytheistic’ children’s TV show after Twitter outrage

The programme's presenter asked children to make a wish to a tree [Twitter]

Date of publication: 16 July, 2020

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The Saudi Broadcasting Authority has cancelled a children’s TV show which encouraged children to present their wishes to a “wishing tree” following complaints that the programme promoted polytheism.

The Saudi Broadcasting Authority (SBA) has suspended a children’s television programme after it drew an angry reaction from viewers and Twitter users who accused it of “spreading polytheism”.

The programme, called “The Wishing Tree”, was broadcast on the Saudi entertainment channel SBC and was presented as a show which “would help children spread love and joy and make their wishes come true.”

However, outraged Twitter users claimed that the show seriously violated Islamic principles and was a “call to associate partners with God”.

One clip from the programme, shared widely on Twitter, showed the presenter, Terad Sandi, introducing the “wishing tree” to a crowd of children and encouraging them to write wishes down on pieces of paper and hang them on a tree.

“Trees give us oxygen and fruit and sometimes we rest under their shade,” he told them, “but this is a really special tree because it doesn’t just give, it takes as well. It will take your wishes. Each one of you will choose a wish and hang it on the tree and we’ll pick some of them so we can make them come true.”

Twitter users said that this was teaching children to grant divine powers to non-sentient objects, in contravention of Islam’s strict monotheistic teachings which only allow prayer and supplication to God.

A Saudi Twitter account known as “Tafrit” (Carelessness), which was created to parody Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment, said “This channel is planting polytheism in the minds of children. They are building a corrupt creed and a misguided faith claiming that good and harm are not in God’s hands. This is not about hanging wishes on a tree, but instilling nonsense and polytheism in a generation.”

Another Twitter user, Mimo4600, said “Unfortunately ugly methods are being introduced to corrupt the purity of the faith of our nation’s children with nonsense and dependence on things other than God!”

The Wishing Tree programme was broadcast throughout 2019. A statement from the Saudi Broadcasting Authority said that the SBA “apologises to viewers for the offence attributed to the programme and reiterates that this was not part of the plan for the programme.”

The SBA added that the programme was now suspended, although the Wishing Tree’s website was still active on the Internet.

However, an Islamic scholar who preferred to remain anonymous told The New Arab that there was nothing religiously objectionable about the programme.

The programme is not giving children any sort of impression of divine power. As long as things are not associated with the Divine Power, they are permissible. This is not associating the tree with any divinity or suggesting that the tree has a will of its own and as such it does not encroach on faith or have any religious meaning,” he said.

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