First Published: 2010-08-26

 

Top Ramadan TV show satirises, irks Saudi hardliners

 

'Tash ma Tash' continues to courte ire of Saudi Arabia's powerful, arch-conservative clerics.

 

Middle East Online

Shown annually by the Saudi-owned satellite broadcaster MBC

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - There's little sacrosanct -- including the tradition of polygamy practised by many Muslim men -- in the most popular Saudi TV series during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Turning the tables on conservative beliefs, "Tash ma Tash" has again sparked huge laughs and huge controversy this month by depicting a Muslim woman not just married to four husbands, but also wanting to divorce one of them in order to marry someone else.

The episode brought cheers from Saudi women, but was met with rage by religious scholars, with one calling for the arrest of the show's producers.

"I appeal to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (Saudi King Abdullah) to bring those (producers) and the channel that broadcasts this series to trial," Sheikh Saad al-Buraik said on the Saudi religious channel, Daleel, hours after the episode was broadcast.

Plunging into the forbidden and courting the ire of Saudi Arabia's powerful, arch-conservative clerics is nothing new for "Tash ma Tash" -- named after a Saudi game similar to the coin-tossing "heads or tails."

Shown annually during the peak TV viewing period of Ramadan by the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned satellite broadcaster MBC, progressives and conservatives await eagerly to see what the show's writers come up with.

This year it tackles everything from relations between Islam and Christianity to the tradition of Muslim men taking up to four wives.

"We wanted to present an inverted image to reveal the injustice and suffering of a woman whose husband marries multiple wives without a need for it," "Tash" actor Abdullah al-Sadhan told the local daily Okaz.

But Sheikh Buraik described the episode as "disgusting." The series "uses comedy as a tool to make fun of scholars and religion," he said.

Young Saudis seem to grasp the satire open-heartedly.

"The episode talks about the feelings and suffering of women in a way which viewers, mainly men, can understand more easily when it comes to being just with their wives," 25-year-old Turki Salem told AFP.

"The work was great and it sends a message to those married to more than one woman for no reasonable excuse. They have tackled this matter in a comic way which respects women's feelings," said Mohammed Hussein, a 22-year-old student.

"Tash ma Tash" has aired every Ramadan since 1992, and it is regularly greeted by calls from enraged conservatives to be banned.

Some actors say they have received death threats on occasion.

In another touchy episode this year named "My Uncle Butros," two Saudi brothers travel to Lebanon to meet some distant uncles, only to find that they're Christian.

After a long dialogue between the Muslim men from Saudi Arabia -- which bans the practice of any other religion on its soil -- and their Lebanese Christian uncles, all finally conclude that all monotheist religions carry a similar message.

But influential preacher Salman al-Ouda disagreed. It is "wrong to consider that there are only minor differences between religions," Sabq.org news website quoted him as saying.

Meshal Ahmed, a 42-year-old teacher, described the series as "shallow and provocative," adding that it must be banned for "harming Saudis."

In its beginnings, "Tash" brought to light real social issues "creatively", said Ali al-Nafaie, 65.

But "during the past few years its disregard for religion has become apparent," he said.

The show portrays Saudis as "ignorant, extreme, disrespecting laws and oppressing their wives. This is not true," he added.

However, actor Sadhan saw no fault with the episode on the Christian uncles.

"The episode contained nothing against religion. We were aiming to bring up the issue of inter-faith dialogue and the importance of coexistence," he said. "'Tash' episodes have a social impact, as they challenge taboos," fellow actor Nasser Qasabi proudly said during a recent talk show on MBC.

"They do not touch sex and politics but consciously tackle religious conduct away from the fundamentals of faith, to deliver a message that religious clerics are not angels, but humans prone to mistakes," he said.

 

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency in Sinai

Lebanon army attacks Islamists as violence spreads to Tripoli souks

Dozens dead in Huthi-Qaeda clashes in central Yemen

Punishment for sexual assault in Iran: Execution of victim!

European clubs step up campaign against winter World Cup in Qatar

Turkey keeps 24 people under observation after yellow powder scare

Russia denies Kerry claims: No agreement to train Iraq army

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests