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.

 

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

Saudi King says determined to confront corruption

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison

Saudi king says Palestinians have 'right' to Jerusalem

South Sudan needs $1.7 billion humanitarian aid in 2018

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Somali journalist killed in front of children

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile