Ramez Galal and his prank shows – File Photo. Ramez Galal and his prank shows – File Photo.

Intense backlash over 'harassment' in Ramadan prank shows

Fri, May. 18, 2018
CAIRO – 18 May 2018: Egyptian actor Ramez Galal has received intense backlash over “actions and words of harassment” in the first episode of his Ramadan prank show, “Ramez Sub Zero”, with people calling for it to be banned.

Galal’s annual shows receive controversial and mixed reactions from audiences. This year, Galal organizes pranks on celebrities, where the celebrity is invited to come to Moscow, Russia to attend a World Cup program. On the way to the program, the guest faces many dangers, among them being horrified by a terrifying tiger and a bear. “Ramez Sub Zero” is presented daily via MBC Egypt.

Many social media users criticized the first episode featuring Egyptian actress Yasmin Sabry and accused Galal of sexual harassment, as he made repeated physical contact with Sabry while they were escaping the terrifying animals and after she found out that it was a joke.

The initiative HARASSmap posted on Facebook, criticizing Galal’s show and claiming that Galal used words that promote sexual harassment by describing the actress as a curvy and hot woman, and that he touched her lips intentionally and expressed admiration over her body in an inappropriate way.

“Using these harassment terms in media, even in comedy shows, is not acceptable; it will create a community who accepts harassment and uses these inappropriate terms easily,” the post read.

The post, which went viral on Facebook, sparked controversy among users. While some defended the show, saying that harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, and in this case, she didn’t mind his words, nor did she express any anger or upset.

Others commented that apart from whether these actions are considered harassment or not, the show is an indecent assault on public morals, customs and traditions, especially in the holy month of Ramadan.

Whether we agree with him or not, Galal has succeeded over the last six years in drawing attention to his shows, ever since he launched his first prank show “Ramez Qalb El Asad” in 2011, which achieved notably high viewership.

The booming success of his first show pushed the prank show producers to continue their cooperation with Galal for six consecutive years. This is normal, as Galal’s prank shows represent a lucrative business deal for its producers, and definitely Galal himself, as his contract increases every year, having reached LE 8 million ($449,085) in 2016.

In the beginning, particularly with his first two prank shows, “Ramez Qalb El Asad” (Ramez Lion’s Heart) and “Ramez Taa’lab Al-Sahara” (Ramez Desert Fox), most of the viewers saw them as amusing and hilarious shows. But is it funny for Galal’s guests, who actually think they are going to die?

Many Egyptian clerics have issued fatwas (religious edicts) pronouncing Galal’s shows unlawful under Islamic law.

"Islamic law does not permit people to do anything that would scare another person," Sheikh Sayyed Salman, member of Al-Azhar University's Alumni Union, said to Alaraby news website.

"These programs harm their guests, who could even lose their lives if they suffer from certain medical conditions," he added.

Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) issued a decision earlier this month to fine any Ramadan drama series up to LE 250,000 for each obscene word.

“We lived about eight years with no rules or control over drama. We are not trying to be fascists or to set limits and restraints over freedoms; however, we are trying to set professional standards for drama work to decrease the violent content,” Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of SCMR, said during a meeting of Parliament’s Media and Culture Committee.

He added that SCMR sets rules for everything that will air during Ramadan, especially advertisements.

Earlier in April, SCMR announced that any advertisement that disrupts the Egyptian community’s values during the holy month of Ramadan will be banned.

Ahmed Selim, secretary-general of SCMR, told Egypt Today that the ads should have valuable content and represent a respectful image of Egypt’s society. He also stressed that the council is going to send a list of the Islamic scholars authorized to issue fatwas through media outlets during the holy month.

Siham Saleh, Media Syndicate deputy, also told Egypt Today on April 16 that a separate committee has been formed to monitor the new programs expected to air during Ramadan. Saleh urged television hosts to commit to the declared charter of honor. She added that no one will appear on the screen without being a recognized member of the Media Syndicate.
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