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Is it true that Tash Ma Tash, the popular Ramadan series, has caused an unwarranted commotion? Has the young cast been harsh in its dealing with society? No, in fact the concept has come late because everything that the cast has portrayed in the program whether true or false has already been discussed at length during social gatherings and is still being debated behind closed doors. We are also presented with evidence of sensible open-mindedness, even if it has been slow, including a reaction to harsh criticism directed at Arab states that reject such criticism and block the path of freedom of expression. It has become apparent that there is a tolerance of, and qualitative development in criticism and this has caught the attention of many people, especially in the form of the popular series Tash Ma Tash that airs during Ramadan. Throughout the holy month, television ratings are at its highest and different parts of society gather around the television set to enjoy the Ramadan programs.

Due to the fact that Tash has tackled some open wounds, it was inevitable that we would witness various levels of criticism because this is not the norm in societies that have been silent about their problems and that only discuss issues during private gatherings that do not affect the public mainstream.

What is important is not influencing government decisions for a sure reason and that is that most governments in the region are affected by social trends, orientations and interaction with society. Therefore, this is how changes are made, by reaching the public, not the elite. One cannot change the behavior of people with official resolutions, the most prominent example of which is the role of women in society as employees, active participants or even as drivers. The government would be unable to face the dominant trend if that trend is convinced by deep-rooted ethics; however the media is the key player that firstly creates controversy, reflects the public mood, guides the official institution and finally promotes change.

I do not want to exaggerate by saying that the Ramadan series has a political and social role but evidently its role is one of significance as such projects are quick to reach the people. Furthermore, it is evident as a result of the subsequent controversy that the series has been successful in delivering its messages and establishing the required dialogue. After that, society can decide for itself what it has to do about these issues after it accepts addressing the problems and perhaps after a while it may consider tackling these difficulties.

This is always the case when discussing controversy especially that which is caused by people outside of the region who do not understand why the government would not issue a decree to appoint female workers and grant them their basic rights whilst the rest of the world had granted these rights to its women a long time ago.

I say that making the right decisions at the wrong time causes unwanted relapses. The appropriate timing will come through internal streams that mobilize, discuss and bring together the largest number of supporters of its cause, only then would it be the right time for an effective decision to be taken. This means that change could come from below rather than from above. This however does not mean that we should leave issues hanging for decades until people wake up one day and decide that they want modernization in their societies, rather it is important to open the doors for debate and this is where the role of the media comes in just as we have seen during Ramadan concerning Tash Ma Tash.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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