â€˜Tashâ€™ Takes Saudi Satire to New Levels
Samir Al-Saadi, Arab News
JEDDAH, 30 September 2006 â€” For years comedy has been used to satirize the state or society in the Arab world. It is said to be the only way to criticize the systems in the region without having to spend a night or two in lockups.
More than two decades have passed since Syrian icon Dareed Laham starred in his hit motion picture â€œThe Borderâ€. In the film, Laham criticized Arab-style bureaucracy in a production that has become a landmark for the modern history of political satire in the Middle East. Today, Arabs can get a little relief from the sometimes-frustrating realities of politics and society by watching â€œTash Ma Tash,â€ which first appeared on Saudi TV during Ramadan 14 years ago.
“Tash Ma Tash” is somewhat of a phenomenon in the Middle East. It’s one of the most widely viewed TV programs during the month of Ramadan, popular for its ascerbic attacks on the status quo. What’s somewhat surprising (at least to those who have little knowledge of Saudi Arabs) is that it is a Saudi production, in Arabic, so clearly for domestic consumption.
One episode this year satirized the recruitment of terrorists, having the would-be terrorists compete in an “American Idol” type show. You can imagine how well that went down in some quarters.
This Arab News article talks about some other episodes as well as about audience reaction. It’s pretty hotly debated.
Do read the whole piece, particularly if you think of Saudi Arabia as monolithic in its beliefs.
You might also be interested in how “Tash Ma Tash” has been busy tweaking noses over the past couple of years (since I started this blog):