Monday, October 02, 2006

Ramadan TV

I would not have expected to read that Ramadan comedy could involve making fun of Islamic fundamentalists, would you? Ramadan is the holiest month in the Muslim calendar; surely it's a time to all pull together and focus on the things all Muslims have in common, right? Well, it seems not, if this NBC News report, by Charlene Gubash, is any indication. According to Gubash, Ramadan is also the high point in the Muslim TV viewing year, equivalent to sweeps week here in the States, and the competition is fierce. Oddly enough, for those of us who aren't familiar with the television options in Muslim countries, not all the Ramadan viewing fare is "Islamically Correct." Gubash elaborates:

An example is "Tash Ma Tash," a wildly popular Saudi TV series that is deploying satire to poke fun at the fundamentalists.

Staff on the show have received death threats for what some consider brazen impertinence; meanwhile, senior sheikhs issued a religious edict which deemed it was sinful to watch "Tash MaTash" after an episode skewered religious judges for working only three hours a day. Another episode was heavily criticized by clerics and others when it ridiculed the practice of requiring women to be accompanied by a male relative or a husband when dining out.

Interesting, eh? Saudi TV as a refuge for anti-fundamentalist satire? Who'da thunk? The article has a few more surprises as well, and other programs that might put a twist in your preconceptions--well worth a read. Moving on, Gubash's article led me to an Associated press piece which furthers indicates that Ramadan TV isn't all about pleasing the jihadis and Islamic fundamentalists. There's a Syrian director who's putting out a series for Ramadan that condemns terrorism, saying it hurts Muslims. One thing of note in this article is that the director blames the rise in terrorism 100% on the U.S., because we invaded Iraq and support Israel. (I don't suppose it would do any good to note the rise of terrorism before we ever put a toe in Iraq. I'm sure it wouldn't do any good to defend our stance on Israel. That would just be wasted breath.)

Regardless of what I think is a mistaken perspective on the source of Islamic terrorism, it's encouraging to see influential Muslims using the airwaves to condemn it. I keep reading things which make me think that the Islamic world can be extremely reasonable, despite what the loonies do. I read today that even the Sunnis in Iraq have largely turned against Al Qaeda, and are cooperating with the government in fighting that organization. Let's hope all these positive indications are a sign of things to come, shall we? I'm still having a hard time getting my head around religious satire in Saudi Arabia, but it's a befuddlement to which I would most happily adjust. I hope "Tash Ma Tash" wins Ramadan sweeps.

Hat tip: In DC Journal