MBC faces legal action over tent fire comedy

    Lawyer of accused Kuwaiti arsonist protests Saudi sitcom 'ridicule'.
    Abdel Khalek Al-Ghanem (L), director of the Saudi program with actors Nasir Al Gasabi (C) and Abdallah Al-Sadhan.
    Abdel Khalek Al-Ghanem (L), director of the Saudi program with actors Nasir Al Gasabi (C) and Abdallah Al-Sadhan.


    A Kuwaiti lawyer defending a woman indicted of starting a fire that killed at least 43 people during a wedding in the Gulf emirate early this month has threatened to sue the MBC TV satellite channel and producers of a Saudi comedy aired by that channel over an episode linked to that incident, according to Emirates 24/7.

    Zaid Al Khabbaz said he believed an episode or the Saudi popular sitcom Tash Ma Tash broadcast last week was inspired by that incident that killed more than 43 women and children and is believed to have been started deliberately by the groom’s ex-wife as an act of revenge.

    But the writer of Tash Ma Tash, which has been aired during Ramadan over the past 17 years, denied the episode has anything to do with that fire.

    “The episode is a clear reference to the tent fire that killed many people during the wedding…we do not accept this because the defendant is innocent until proved otherwise,” said Khabbaz, lawyer for the indicted woman.

    “This case is still in court and we, as lawyers, will stick to our defence…those in MBC and Tash Ma Tash have no excuse to talk about this accident…what happened was a disaster and they should not ridicule the feelings of my client and the victims of the fire during these blessed days of Ramadan.”

    Khabbaz said he was consulting with his client’s relatives to sue MBC and Tash Ma Tash managers “so they will be an example to others”.

    “They must learn not to be sarcastic about such sensitive incidents…freedom has conditions and limits, which are known to every one…I wonder whether the grievances of people have become an object of sarcasm in televisions.”

    Reacting to the lawyer’s remarks, Tash Ma Tash production manager, Anbar Dousari, denied such claims and said there was no link between the episode and the tent fire in al-Jahra, a tribal area west of Kuwait City.

    “I can affirm that there is no link between this episode and the tent fire committed by Khabbaz’s client…at the same time, I affirm that we are ready to go to court because we only talked about a fire in a wedding tent…I wonder if this lawyer will file a suit against anyone who will burn a tent,” Dousari said.

    “Perhaps the woman in the episode is influenced by that tent fire in Kuwait but we did make any references or names…there is a big difference because this woman in the episode is not divorced.”

    Tash Ma Tash has already drawn strong criticism from Saudi Arabia’s Moslem clerics over some subjects handed by its actors, including Christianity and the marriage of a woman to four men at the same time, which is banned in Islam.

    One prominent scholar also attacked the Saudi-owned MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Centre) television and branded its owners criminals.

    “This channel (MBC) is broadcasting poison and crime……it has nothing to do with Islam……….how can this channel claim to be Muslim when it does not belong to Islam and is void of any Islamic spirit,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan Al Durae, a senior teaching council member in the Riyadh-based Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University.

    “They even do not care for those leaders (Saudi) who have struggled to serve Islam and Muslims…those in charge of this channels are nothing but criminals who are transmitting what they want and spreading their poison everywhere…what is more dangerous that destroying homes is to destroy ethics and beliefs…this channel is destroying ethics and beliefs.”

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