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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Cinemas Could Lead to 'Rotten or Atheistic' Foreign Films, Mixing of Sexes: Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti

Saudi Women

(Photo : Getty Images) Gender segregation is mandatory in Saudi Arabia.

In a move that could potentially complicate government efforts to introduce cultural reforms to the conservative kingdom, Saudi Arabia's top religious authority on Saturday said that cinemas and singing concerts are harmful and corrupting.

In comments published on his website, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said that cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment could lead to "atheistic or rotten" foreign films and also encourage the mixing of sexes.

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Cinemas and public concerts are already outlawed in conservative Saudi Arabia. However, the kingdom's government has promised to shake-up the cultural scene with a raft of "vision 2030" reforms, which were announced last year by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammmed Bin Salman.

The "vision 2030" initiative is meant as an effort to jumpstart the country's private sector, create jobs for a growing population, and open up Saudi Arabia's cloistered lifestyles.

Last week, a debate was stirred after Amr al-Madani, the government's General Authority for Entertainment, hinted about opening cinemas and staging concerts this year. Madani was quoted by the country's media saying that singer Mohammed Abdo would perform at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah at an unspecified date in the future.

Up to now, singers have only been allowed to perform in private gatherings.

However, Al al-Sheikh has called for those in charge of the entertainment authority to turn it from bad to good and "not to open doors to evil."

Al al-Sheikh added that motion films could transmit shameless, immoral, atheistic, or rotten films. He also stressed that there is nothing good in song parties, saying that opening of movie houses all the time is an invitation for sexes to mix.

Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is mandatory.

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