RIYADH, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi media is using the holy month of Ramadan to tackle the sensitive issue of Islamic extremism, with TV soaps ridiculing militants and clerics crying foul at the way their religion is depicted reports the Reuters news agency .
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, but the evenings are a time for celebration when television channels across the Arab world go into overdrive with dramas and comedies offering a chance to tackle difficult social issues.
Long-running Saudi comedy “Tash Ma Tash” this year broke taboos with its depiction of Islamic extremists at a school for militants jokingly named the “Terrorism Academy”, named after the popular global TV franchise Star Academy.
“The programme pushes the envelope and we need it to be pushed. These issues have been addressed in the past but it’s more direct now,” said liberal activist Hussein Shobokshi.
“People are being challenged to differentiate between the human and the divine part of religion. It’s on the human side that we need to work,” he told Reuters.
Clerics and others are furious, saying the humour ridicules Islam itself. The believers at the school are depicted as simpletons robotically repeating mantras about “infidels”, which are in fact part of mainstream Saudi religious discourse.
“Media in the Islamic world must not adopt people who deride God’s religion, its holy men and their supporters, or who produce such drama serials and propaganda,” Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Shathry recently said in one of many edicts against the show.
Underlining sensitivities, Saudi state television has declined to air the show. It is being carried on MBC, a popular pan-Arab network based in the United Arab Emirates.