Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric has warned of the "depravity" of cinemas and music concerts, saying they would corrupt morals if allowed in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
“We know that singing concerts and cinemas are a depravity,” Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said in a television interview cited by Sabq news website late Friday.
The head of the Saudi supreme council of clerics was responding to a question about the plans of the kingdom’s General Authority for Entertainment to licence concerts and study opening cinemas.
He warned that cinemas “might show movies that are libertine, lewd, immoral and atheist, because they rely on films imported to change our culture,” according to Sabq.
He said there is “no good” in singing concerts, insisting that music entertainment and opening cinemas represent a “call for mixing between sexes”.
“At the beginning they would assign areas for women, but then both men and women will end up in one area. This corrupts morals and destroys values,” he said.
However, “entertainment through cultural and scientific media is okay,” he said, urging the authority “not to open doors for evil.”
Developing tourism and entertainment in the desert kingdom is one of the wide-ranging goals of Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 announced in April.
The entertainment authority has lined up several events, but a show by American stand-up comedian and actor Mike Epps at a university campus in western Saudi Arabia was cancelled last month.
In addition to cinemas, the Muslim kingdom bans mixing in public and alcohol is prohibited.
Women are not allowed to drive and must obtain permits from their male guardians for several essential activities, including work and travel. They must also cover from head to toe when in public.