Egypt’s Al-Hayat TV has had a Punk’d style show airing throughout Ramadan, the Islamic world’s holiest month of fasting. I’ve never been physically capable of watching a complete episode from beginning to end. The gist of it though is that a celebrity is invited on a group trip, and while on a desert road, a band of RPG-carrying Bedouins drive up beside the trip bus, threaten them with guns, cut off the road with their truck, and then fire an explosive into the bus’s windshield. The Bedouin terrorists then proceed to drag the celebrity out of the bus while threatening everyone else with guns. The celebrity is tied and held at gun point. In theory, everyone on the bus but the celebrity is in on the act. Audiences are expected to laugh at the terrified response of the celebrity to the situation.
Word out on the street is that this show has received the most lucrative advertisement deals because of its huge popularity.
The first time I saw a clip from this show my sister was at my house breaking her fast with me. “Nadia, did you see this crazy show called Ramez Tha’lab Al-Sahara (or Ramez the Desert Fox)?” she asked. I haven’t had any time this Ramadan to watch much television so my response was in the negative. She pulled out a clip for me from YouTube. I could only watch for a few minutes until I started getting nauseous and my blood pressure was rising to dangerous levels. I was metamorphosing into Angry Nadia.
There are so many issues with the airing of this show that I do not know where to start. Since when is terrorism a laughing matter? We are a country, especially during this post-revolutionary state of lawlessness we are living in, that needs to create an immense amount of awareness among our people to counter the effects of terrorism. Only a few weeks ago violence erupted in an Egyptian village between Copts and Muslims. At the end of this past June, angry Bedouins blocked the road with flaming tires and shot their rifles into the air while we were driving through Sinai. My children were with me. How is it possible that Egypt TV airs a show that encourages this sort of activity as something to laugh at?
What I worry about most is the children. We have more than our fair share of pranksters in Egypt. Egyptians are known for their sense of humor and pranks are one means of expressing it. Of course, these pranks are usually very light-hearted and harmless. But what are we telling our children – or even the adults – about what is acceptable when it comes to pranks? What are we telling our children about terrorism?
I am horrified to see this – and several other similar prank shows airing this month – get any sort of audience. And how is that they are aired during the spiritual month of Ramadan; the month that teaches us love and compassion? How is it that they are aired at all? Our censors in Egypt get all high and mighty if a little kiss or hug shows up in a movie. How is it that this sort of thing gets an OK by the censors? Either we censor what actually does deserve censorship or we stop censoring at all.
Egypt’s television channels are showing us a new low when we thought it could get no worse.
And you ask where terrorism originates?