Saudi Arabia’s religious authority has said the legalisation of cinemas and concerts could lead to the “mixing of sexes” and “atheistic or rotten” influences in the conservative Islamic kingdom.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh made the statements on his weekly television programme, reports The Independent.
The head of the General Authority for Entertainment, Amr al-Madani has raised the potential for opening cinemas and holding concerts as early as this year.
Public cinemas have been illegal in the country since the 1980s.
The Grand Mufti said: “I hope those in charge of the Entertainment Authority are guided to turn it from bad to good and not to open doors to evil.
“Motion pictures may broadcast shameless, immoral, atheistic or rotten films.
“There is nothing good in song parties, for entertainment day and night and opening of movie houses at all times is an invitation to mixing of sexes.”
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who launched Vision 2030 last year, plans to increase the private sector share in the economy from 40 per cent to 60 per cent, reducing unemployment from 11 per cent to 7.6 per cent and growing non-oil income. The prince said Saudi Arabia had a “dangerous” reliance on oil.
Meanwhile, two women have been arrested for breaking “revolutionary norms and values” after being filmed riding a motorbike.
Officials in the city of Dezful said they had “exploited the opportunity” presented by a lack of police in a national park to commit an “obscene act” worsened by the spread of footage online.
Colonel Ali Elhami, a local police commander, told the state-controlled IRNA news agency the women “committed an action against revolutionary norms and values by riding a motorcycle”.
“This manifested the utmost denunciation of religious norms by the two girls and caused serious torment and anxiety among city officials,” he said on Wednesday.
“The state security forces carried out an extensive investigation and finally managed to find, arrest, and deliver them to judiciary officials.”
The video shows the women, wearing headscarves and loose clothing, being followed down a road by a large group of male motorcyclists, shouting and whistling.
It cuts before they are seen dismounting from the motorbike, surrounded by men taking photos and filming.
Some attempt to block their way out of the crowd and one man grabs a woman as she passes, appearing to forcibly kiss her face as she pushes him away.
The footage has provoked a backlash against authorities, with critics saying the women had not committed a crime and should have been treated as victims of harassment.