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.

 

Turkey warns Syria against protecting Kurds

Two hardline Syria rebels announce merger

IS kills 25 Iraqi militiamen near Kirkuk

Sudan frees dozens of activists detained after protests

Saudi Arabia to host first Arab Fashion Week

Somalia appoints new police, intelligence chiefs

Iran plane crash rescue search halted for second night

France reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal

Abbas warms up to Moscow amid cold US-Palestinian ties

Israel strikes 'historic' gas contract with Egypt

Are Iranian satellite channels aiding regime change?

Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes after rocket attack

Iraq orders deportation of French jihadist

Pro-Assad militias to enter Syria's Afrin

Three Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant