Yesterday I was watching an episode from a popular and long running Arabic comedy series, focused on Saudi Arabia, that airs on MBC, the Waleed al-Ibrahim (King Fahd’s brother-in-law) owned satellite channel. This episode featured a Saudi woman who marries four husbands and keeps them all because she can financially and wants a change at home. I immediately thought to myself this is very risky territory, even if this show has a history of taking on tricky social issues.
And so it has proved, Twitter being host to fierce criticism of the show, with both liberals and conservatives united for once in condemnation. The conservatives are obviously upset that the show dared to contradict the established religious law that forbids a woman from marrying more than one man at a time, but allowing men to marry several at the same time. The liberals worry that this encourages Saudi women to adopt some of the more relaxed Western attitudes to relationships. One female Saudi blogger took the opportunity to say that being a woman in Saudi is unimaginable for men, especially with this issue of polygamy.
Above this issue, what fascinated me was that the show was willing to take on such a religious and social taboo, not to attack the religious law or seek to ignore it, but to get men to think a bit more about how hard it is for a woman to be in a polygamous relationship and the way Saudi men treat women in this regard. Going further above the topic of the show, it was good to see the writers using comedy to get the population to think deeper about complex social issues, an excellent method when freedom of thought and speech is restricted, or when socially conservative cultures do not allow direct discussion of such issues.