It seems a recurring theme. Only the court jester could tell King Lear that he was acting like an idiot. And only the comedians could force a debate within a country hidebound by tradition. Either way, these individuals from Saudi Arabia deserve considerable credit.
Speak No Evil: Muslim Experts Sound Off Over the Ongoing “Tash” Controversy By Huda al Saleh
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- An episode of Saudi’s popular satirical comedy series “Tash Ma Tash” entitled “Terrorist Academy” has stirred up a controversy that caused disputes among members of the Saudi society. From the first day it aired, the debate on whether the episode should have been banned or broadcast was the widely discussed bone of contention, with supporters of the show referred to as “secularists” while those opposed were labeled “fundamentalists”.
What sketches have religious groups upset?
The first of the two episodes that were banned last year but broadcast this past week, titled “Mujahadeen Al-Keyboard,” focused on the touchy subject of jihad and terrorism.
In the sketch, terrorist webmasters sit in the comfort of their air-conditioned rooms building web pages that encourage others to make sacrifices by committing acts of terror.
The hypocrisy of the extremist web geeks is the crux of the joke, says the writer of the skit Abdullah ibn Bajad Al-Otaiby.
“The promoters of dangerous ideologies are enjoying life — never ready to sacrifice their own luxuries, let alone undertake the hazardous path they advocate online.”
The second episode was titled “Daawah Litasamuh” (“Call for Tolerance”).
In this segment, officials who advocate only one interpretation of Islam (their own) prosecute a man in a court for religious heresy.
This episode played on the concept of takfir, or the habit of some Muslims labeling others as not being true to the faith. The segment also lampooned arcane judicial procedures that help prosecute a man for his beliefs.
This satirical comedy group, composed of Saudi Arabian citizens, has generated considerable controversy with a number of their episodes. Some Imans have called for the comedy group’s eternal damnation, while others have asked their congregations to pray for the group’s souls.
And yet… “The Saudi government has not taken any action to stop the broadcast of this controversial program.” (link) The show remains one of the most popular on Saudi television.
In all of the fear and fearmongering over radical Islamic terrorism, it is easy to overlook the positive developments that are happening (albeit frustratingly slowly) as the Middle East totters into the 21st century. While I have expressed concern over the number of dictatorships which operate in the region, hampering our ability to overcome the terrorists and build a just peace in the Middle East, too many people paint their enemies with far too wide of a brush. Individuals like Jay Currie attack all of Islam as the problem, and ask where the moderate Muslims are who condemn the actions of the radical few. Well, here they are, and here they are. These, and many, many more are the individuals and the groups moving Islam in the Middle East forward. Give them space.
Hat tip to the Walrus Said.