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Turkey's Star TV cancels game show over host's remarks

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 10/7/2010 12:00:00 AM |

The Turkish television channel Star TV has canceled a popular game show amid outcry over its host's discriminatory remarks about Alevi Muslims.

The Turkish television channel Star TV has canceled a popular game show amid outcry over its host’s discriminatory remarks about the country’s Alevis, the channel announced in a written statement Thursday.

The halt to broadcasting of “Çarkı Felek” (Wheel of Fortune) came as a result of well-known TV host Mehmet Ali Erbil’s on-air comments, according to a NTVMSNBC report Wednesday.

Speaking live on TV on Wednesday, Erbil asked a contestant, “[Do you think] we are playing ‘mum söndü’ here?” The phrase, while hard to directly translate, is a slur used to offend Alevis by claiming they engage in incestuous relations.

It is not the first time Erbil has offended Alevis, members of a liberal sect of Islam, with his televised comments. He was previously criticized for remarks during a wedding-themed program on the same TV channel in which he asked, “Do I look like a Kızılbaş?” The word is used to refer in a derogatory manner to Alevis.

“A hurtful remark toward our citizens has been used during a Star TV program [Wednesday] night. We believe that the artist who made such remarks did not have any bad intentions,” the channel said in its statement, adding that Erbil had also apologized for his remarks “on another TV program.”

“However, we cannot tolerate any offending remarks toward our people, so the Star TV executive [board] has decided to end the [‘Çarkı Felek’] program,” the statement said.

The Alevi Bektashi Federation organized protests against Erbil’s remarks at İzmir’s central Konak Square. Some of the protesters burned photos of the TV host while others carried placards and shouted slogans against him.

İzmir residents also protested Erbil’s comments by gathering in front of the local headquarters of Doğan Media Group, which owns Star TV, the Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday. Police took elevated security measures and managed to keep the protesters, some of whom were throwing eggs, away from the building and then dispersed the crowd.

On Thursday, Erbil published a note on the Medyatava website, saying, “I am deeply sorry for having let slip from my tongue an expression offensive to many people living in this country.” The host added that the main goal of the TV programs he has presented was to reduce people’s everyday stress by making them laugh, and that he in no way aimed to offend anyone.

“I must accept that I also make mistakes while doing my job, as [does] anyone else,” Erbil wrote, adding that he had never shown a lack of respect toward any group, belief, sect, ethnicity or culture during his life and career.

“If I hurt even one of my fellow countrymen with the broadcast, I would like them to know I had no ill intentions and that I know I exceeded my limits in the excitement of live broadcast,” Erbil said in his statement. “I apologize to the people of Turkey and pay my respects to them.”

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