An Egyptian television series was temporarily taken off the air after one episode because it was deemed inappropriate for viewers by the country’s Censorship Authority, which took issue with a plot line that appeared to depict incest.
Starring some of the country’s top actors, including Laila Elwi, Mai Selim and Magdy Kamel, the show, titled Donia Tania (or Another World), has since been re-edited to remove the problematic story arc. It is now back on air.
The first episode has the protagonist, Donia, played by Elwi, catch her husband being unfaithful to her with her sister, which the Supreme Council for Media Regulations (SCMR) deemed unsuitable for the country’s viewers.
“The council has decided to halt the first episode of Donia Tania on account of it not receiving the necessary permits from the Censorship Authority and it being aired in a deceptive manner,” said the SCMR. “We received a complaint from Dr Khaled Abdel Galil, the head of the authority that, despite receiving a notice from him, Al Nahar ignored it and aired the episode with the aforementioned scenes as is.”
Al Nahar then issued a statement stressing they had not been notified by the Censorship Authority to remove the scenes. However, in response to the backlash, the channel quickly removed the scenes and any subsequent mention of it on their various social media platforms.
“The scenes depicting incest have been removed from the series Donia Tania, and the deleted content will not be shown in any reruns or on social media,” the channel said.
A statement from the show’s director, Ahmed Abdel Aal, revealed that he had intended to unveil that Elwi’s character and her sister, played by Mai Selim, are not related in future episodes. However, in light of the negative reaction received from the censor, he decided to reshuffle the plot and bring that revelation forward to the first episode to put viewers’ minds at ease.
“We have the utmost respect for the country’s media regulators and I want to stress that there is no incest depicted in my show,” Abdel Aal told ET bel Arabi, a popular entertainment TV show based on America's Entertainment Tonight. “We had intended to show in a future episode that the two characters are not in fact sisters. We took great care to depict Egypt in a positive light because we hold the New Republic in very high esteem.”
While the deleted plot line does not, in the strictest sense, constitute incest, which refers to relationships between blood relatives, in Egypt — and other Muslim-majority countries — having relations with the sibling of one’s spouse is a particularly egregious taboo that is often put on the same level as the crime.
Donia Tania is one of the many television series that debuted on Saturday in time for the start of the holy month. Ramadan is a peak season for television shows in Egypt that actors and producers wait for every year to launch some of their most important works.
The series is a social drama that recounts the story of Donia as she navigates a divorce after losing one of her sons to drowning and the other loses the ability to speak.