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11/30/03 - SAUDI COMEDY SERIES - 2003-12-02

A comedy series called “Tash Ma Tash” has become one of the most popular television shows in Saudi Arabia. Roughly translated, the title means, “You either get it or you don’t.” The show has won a big audience by poking fun at some aspects of life in Saudi Arabia.

One recent half-hour episode focused on the consequences of the highly restrictive laws that apply to women in Saudi Arabia. “Tash Ma Tash” showed what happens when a group of women find themselves home alone during a burglary. The women call the police, put on their veils, and rush outside. But when the policeman comes, he tells them he can’t investigate because “your male guardian is not here.”

It is with such cutting humor that “Tash Ma Tash” is highlighting the realities of life in Saudi Arabia today. As Fowziyah Abukhalid, a sociologist at King Saud University, told the New York Times newspaper, “This show is a window that people can see us through. . . . Some of these issues used to be taboo, so to have someone talk about them and criticize them is very important.”

Not everyone in Saudi Arabia agrees. Some Muslim religious leaders have issued edicts calling for “Tash Ma Tash” to be taken off the air. Fortunately, Saudi officials have not been persuaded that the comedy series is harmful. This is a good sign. Perhaps the next step will be for officials to examine the laws that provoke such satire.

Even Saudi males find such laws burdensome. As writer Muhammad al-Wan told the New York Times, “We are enslaved by demands at home because a woman can’t do anything without a man.”

He has a point.