Saudi Arabia’s radical top religious authority has slammed government plans for opening cinemas and concerts in the kingdom, saying such places would be harmful and corrupting.
In remarks published on his website on Saturday, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said cinemas would encourage immorality in the kingdom.
"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,” Al al-Sheikh said on his weekly television program, adding, “Motion pictures may broadcast shameless, immoral, atheistic or rotten films.”
Al al-Sheikh also said holding concerts for the purpose of entertainment could encourage mixing of sexes.
“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,” he added.
The cleric, who is notorious for adopting harsh positions vis-à-vis cultural, religious and political issues, was clearly referring to a recent announcement by the head of the government's General Authority for Entertainment, Amr al-Madani. The official stirred debate last week when he raised the possibility of opening cinemas and staging concerts in Saudi Arabia this year.
Al-Madani 's recent announcement is part of a larger set of "Vision 2030" reforms announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz last year, which are aimed at shaking up Saudi Arabia’s cultural scene.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, has been facing growing international criticism for its records on human rights. Women are not allowed to drive in the country and can only contest some local elections.