A group of Saudi clerics urged the kingdom's new information minister on Sunday to ban women from appearing on TV or in newspapers and magazines, making clear that the country's hardline religious establishment is skeptical of a new push toward
In a statement, the 35 hardline clergymen also called on Abdel Aziz Khoja to prohibit the playing of music and music shows on television.
We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you, said the
statement: We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book fair.
Although it raises the pressure on the new minister, the recommendation is
likely to have little effect. Khoja's appointment was part of a government shake-up by Abdullah that removed a number of hardline figures and is believed to be part of an effort to weaken the influence of conservatives in this devout desert kingdom.
No Saudi women should appear on TV, no matter what the reason, the statement said: No images of women should appear in Saudi newspapers and magazines. Saudi Arabia was founded on an alliance with the conservative Wahhabi strain of
Islam that sees the mixing of sexes as anathema and believes the playing of music violates religious values.
A Saudi religious scholar is accusing a royal tycoon and another Saudi businessman of being as dangerous as drug dealers because the TV channels they own broadcast movies.
The fatwa calling for their prosecution is unusual because it publicly
chastises two such prominent Saudi figures by name: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest people, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of the late King Fahd.
Youssef al-Ahmed, a professor in the Islamic law department at the
ultraconservative al-Imam University, issued the fatwa in response to a question regarding Alwaleed's assertions last month that the kingdom will have movie theaters one day and that movies play a positive social role in Saudi Arabia.
Cinemas were closed in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s amid a rise in conservatism. Conservatives believe the movie industry encourages decadence by showing the drinking of alcohol and portraying men and women together in a country that bans liquor and the public mixing of the sexes.
Movies are a tool that hypocrites use to implement their plot to Westernize society, corrupt it and drive it away from (religion), said al-Ahmed in his response, posted on Islamlight.net: It is a duty to bring him (Alwaleed) and people
like him, such as Waleed al-Ibrahim, to justice. They are no less dangerous ... than drug dealers."
Waleed owns the Dubai-based MBC Group media conglomerate, which includes several satellite channels that broadcast movies, entertainment,
news and children's programs in Arabic and English. Those include American and European sitcoms and movies.