Straziuso in Kabul, Afghanistan
well-guarded hotel on top of a high hill, a lively audience of Afghans and
American VIPs watched the season finale of Afghanistan's version of American
Idol. Singers performed on a star-shaped stage while cutting-edge graphics
flashed in the background.
Meanwhile, a couple of hundred yards
down the hill, thousands of Afghans demonstrated against the reprinting of
Prophet Mohammed drawings in Denmark.
They burned Dutch and Danish flags and an
effigy representing Afghan Star, the country's most popular TV show. The two
finalists – 19-year-old Rafi Naabzada, who went on to win the show, and
21-year-old runner-up Hameed Sakhizada – received more than 300,000 text message
singer from the most conservative Afghan tribe, the Pashtuns, was voted out last
week. She had drawn the ire of clerics in Afghanistan, who said women should not
be singing on TV.
Mohseni, the founder of Tolo TV, which produces Afghan Star, said the show was
watched by 11 million people – one-third of the country – and is helping to
bring about social change. "Not just in music, but in the way people voted, the
way they lined up in an orderly manner (outside the show] ... the way the losers
are gracious. No-one is threatening violence. That's a huge change," he
protesters held signs against Denmark, where newspapers recently reprinted
drawings of Mohammed, and the Netherlands, where Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders
plans to release a film criticising the Koran this month. Osama bin Laden, in an
audiotape released last week, warned of a "severe" reaction to European
publication of the cartoons.