Fans embrace, clerics condemn TV's "Afghan Star"

Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:24pm EDT
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By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of fans clamored on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of their favorite finalists from the TV show "Afghan Star," Afghanistan's version of "American Idol," which is watched by millions but condemned by Islamic clerics as immoral.

The finalists, two men and for the first time a woman, will appear in Friday's competition, where one will be eliminated before the last show to decide the winner a week later.

Kabul's Islamic council of clerics has branded the show un-Islamic and demanded it be taken off the air.

"'Afghan Star' encourages immorality among the people and is against Sharia law," the council said earlier this year.

But the few hundred young Afghan men and women seemed to care little as they banged on the gates of an office in Kabul where the three finalists gave a short news conference before signing autographs.

"I am dying to see and get the signature of my favorite star," said Natasha, a young girl waiting to get in. "It is a golden chance for fans, especially girls to meet their beloved stars."

Groups of fans competed with one another to chant the names of their favorites.

Such scenes would have been impossible a few years ago in the conservative and devoutly Islamic country. The Taliban, ousted in 2001 for failing to hand over al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks, banned both music and television.   Continued...

<p>Lima Sahar (R), Hameed Sakhizada (C) and Rafay Nabzada, the three finalists in Afghan Star, Afghanistan's answer to American Idol, talk during a news conference in Kabul March 11, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani</p>