Unholy row as Saudi clerics slam Ramadan TVwww.blogwired.com
By Andrew Hammond
Monday, September 15, 2008; 4:07 AM
RIYADH (Reuters) – The sanctity of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan has been spoiled for some in the Arab world by an unholy row over “depraved” TV comedies and serials that have led Saudi clerics to demand the death penalty.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious establishment has complained for years about what they see as brazen attacks on them and Islam by liberals who dominate Arab media.
Saudi royals and business allies have set up pan-Arab news and entertainment channels outside Saudi Arabia that aim partly at influencing Saudi Arabia’s domestic politics. Liberals and conservatives are engaged in a low-level war over the future of the key U.S. ally and world’s biggest oil exporter.
But television this year has seemingly pushed some clerics to apoplexy with romantic soaps showcasing liberal lifestyles, dramas that fan the flames of ancient tribal hatreds and slapstick comedies that have captured the public’s heart.
Ramadan, which ends around September 30, is a month of fasting when Muslims are supposed to focus on God. But across the Arab world it has become an orgy of food and TV consumption once the fast ends at sunset and advertisers have a captive audience.
“If they continue airing depravity and shamelessness they should be banished from this place and others brought in their place,” senior Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh al-Fozan said in comments published on Sunday, referring to TV executives.
He suggested purveyors of horoscopes and “sorcery” should face the death penalty, and head of the Islamic sharia courts Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan said last week channel owners should be tried and face possible death for “indecency and vulgarity.”
Arab TV producers aren’t laughing.