Selfie Saudi
According to The Associated Press, there is a new TV satire program has become a hit in the Arab world by mocking some of the region's most serious issues.It tackles a range of topics from the intractable Sunni-Shiite divide and religious extremism to the brutality of militants like the Islamic State group.

The show, "Selfie," has also brought a backlash. Islamic State group sympathizers have made death threats against its Saudi star and top writer on social media. One mainstream Saudi cleric denounced the show of heresy for mocking the country's ultraconservative religious establishment. That has made it the buzz of the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is the peak television viewing season in the Middle East.

Naser al-Qasabi, the series' star, and its writer Khalaf al-Harbi told The Associated Press in their first interview with foreign media that they expected the backlash, but weren't prepared for the popularity. It's one of the top shows on MBC, the privately owned Saudi network that airs it, and has been the talk of the Gulf press.

Al-Qasabi says the series' dark humor reveals just how tragic the situation across the Middle East has become.

"What's coming is darker," he said. "Maybe I am a bit pessimistic, and I hope that I am wrong, but I don't think I am."

In one of the show's episodes, al-Qasabi plays a would-be "caliph" starting his own Islamic State group-style militia, but he's surrounded by buffoons and hypocrites. His "mufti," or top cleric, never finished school. He struggles to find ways to differentiate his group — his group's flag is the same as IS's notorious banner but with the black and white colors flipped. When one of his cronies boasts of plans for a mass beheading, the "caliph" complains that he wants a new form of execution.

"Behead, behead, behead. That's all you got?" he groans, before suggesting the captives be put in a freezer. It's particularly bitter humor, given the increasingly grisly ways IS has used to kill its captives.

In the show's most popular skit, al-Qasabi plays a Saudi father whose son has run off to join IS. He smuggles himself into Syria, pretends to be a jihadi joining IS and tries to convince his son to return home. It's a more serious episode, showing his horror at IS "perversions" of Islam and at the group's atrocities — and his torment as he tries to avoid committing atrocities himself in his disguise. But it has comic moments as well, as he fumbles his way through militant training and is chased around the bed by a militant bride who is forced on him by the group and who has dedicated her life to pleasing jihadis as a means of going to heaven.

Other, lower-budget Iraqi and Syrian TV shows have mocked IS and other militants. But "Selfie" stands out with its high production values — and the fact that it's a show with Saudi actors on a Saudi network at times mocking attitudes on religion in the kingdom, where there is little tolerance for discussing the many taboos.

This undated TV grab made available by MBC television, shows Saudi comedian Naser Al-Qasabi, in a scene from his recent TV show titled "Selfie". The new satirical Saudi TV show has become a hit in the Arab world by mocking some of the region’s most serious issues, from the intractable Sunni-Shiite divide and religious extremism to the brutality of militants like the Islamic State group.