By Sahar Moussa

KUWAIT: Kuwait is no stranger to arts and entertainment, as it boasts of having one of the oldest entertainment industries in the Arabian Peninsula. Since the late 1960s, Kuwait's television, drama and comedy scenes have flourished, reflecting an image to the world of the Gulf state's open-minded society that was always considered a pioneer in this field among its peers.

In recent years however, people living in Kuwait are feeling a shift in the atmosphere when it comes to entertainment and freedom of choosing what to watch or how to live. On Monday, a court in Kuwait received a lawsuit against the Ministry of Communication demanding blocking Netflix in Kuwait. Lawyer Abdulaziz Al-Subaei said Netflix recently produced and released an Arabic film ('Perfect Strangers') that provoked a wave of public anger due to several controversial scenes. He said large numbers of young people and adolescents are attached to Netflix, which he says promotes ideas that are against social values and in violation of the teachings of Islam.

82 percent

Meanwhile, a Kuwait Times survey on social media revealed 82 percent of respondents are against blocking Netflix in Kuwait, while 18 percent said they are in favor of such a decision. Some commenters even suggested removing this movie only instead of blocking the whole app. "I'm against (the decision). Why would you block an app just because of one bad movie that no one probably even heard of until all this broke out?" one commenter wrote. "Let them just remove that movie from Kuwait and keep Netflix," said another.

The movie talks about real-life situations that many argue exist in our Arab society. It tells the story of a dinner party of a close group of friends who agree to leave their phones unlocked on the table, exposing juicy interactions and dark secrets. "All the secrets revealed by the film exist in Arab societies and across all classes, but there is this duality which makes people refuse to acknowledge it," said Ghada Shahbender, a scriptwriter and human rights activist. She also argued that since the rise of the Internet in Arab countries, public discourse about the arts had been driven by popular views on social media rather than 'elitist' critics.

One commenter agreed with Shahbender. "The movie literally depicted real-life stories and the truth that has been happening in our 'Muslim' societies for years," they argued. "If you do not like it, then do not watch it. Let us watch Netflix in peace... there is bigger fish to fry than this." Some commenters view blocking Netflix as an act of depriving people from making their own decisions and the right to choose, especially since the platform has been one of the only source of entertainment during the pandemic. "You are taking away a basic right to choose! If something offends you, do not watch it! Does Netflix oblige you to watch every movie on their site?" one comment said. "Netflix was a major source of entertainment during the pandemic, so don't use the moral shock angle - just grow up and get a life."

"Even Saudi Arabia opened up," another commenter argued. "Why are we going backwards? The choice to watch is upon the viewer. One should be given the right to choose and not to be under the hammer. Keep Netflix, that's my opinion," they added, suggesting that those who don't like its contents can choose to end their subscriptions.


The movie has faced pushback from conservatives in the Middle East ever since its release. One Egyptian politician accused the film of "perversion, promoting homosexuality and infidelity and even being part of a plot to disrupt Arab society." Many people in Kuwait share similar views and support a ban on Netflix. "Anything which is not good for Kuwait's community and its culture should be banned or blocked," said one of the commenters. "We are with the ban," said another. "Netflix movies are against our culture and religion. Netflix is haram and should be banned; it is ruining children's lives."

The debate over banning Netflix sheds light on the issue of freedoms in Kuwait at a time when other countries in the region have become more open to hosting cultural, musical and international events. MP Hamdan Al-Azmi warned the government yesterday of allowing concerts to be held in Kuwait, saying that they are "destructive" to society, "corrupt our children" and go against the Kuwaiti society's conservative nature.