MIDDLE EAST

What of the future of cinemas and concerts in Saudi?

The Saudi General Authority for Entertainment chief's statements about the potential of opening cinemas and allowing concerts has stirred up debate with from both sides. We, the Saudis, have gotten used to such fuss and debates. The Saudis get used to them as they would later become people’s rights.

Educating girls, permitting television, allowing women to work, along with other similar areas have all led to similar controversies, but have eventually become ordinary aspects of our lives. Outdated and extremist voices retreated and submitted to the fait accompli. I think this current debate about the cinema resembles yesterday’s debate about television. It’s perfectly normal for isolated and closed societies to worry and fear new things and thus reject them at the beginning and accept them at the end.

I am certain without a shadow of doubt that those who reject cinema today will compete over them later. Islamic cinemas will soon surface as they try and exploit the industry for Islamic dawa and its purposes just like they did with television channels which they prohibited few years ago. Islamic television channels now compete with other entertainment television channels.

I am certain without a shadow of doubt that those who reject cinema today will compete over them later. Islamic cinemas will soon surface as they try and exploit the industry for Islamic dawa and its purposes just like they did with television channels which they prohibited few years ago

Mohammed Al Shaikh

They will also compete with concerts and hold similar events, but they will give them a different name such as Islamic nasheed concerts. I can almost assert that this is what those who oppose concerts will end up doing.

I strongly support this plurality regarding the entertainment options and I believe it’s a healthy phenomenon and proof of society’s freedom of choice. Those who want to go to ordinary cinemas that screen Arabic and foreign movies can do so and those who think that they and their families better go to Islamic cinemas can also do so, on the condition that they do not exploit them to recruit young people to fuel terrorism and get involved in a culture of violence and hatred.

The 'true motives'

The diversity of and lack of restrictions of the entertainment, is a general demand for a cross over to being a civil state with its cultures and laws which include freedom and choice. They are the true motives behind creativity and people’s excellence over others. They also encourage one to give regulated freedom, which allows everyone to practice their convictions without restriction and without the guardianship of one ideology over another, is what civilized people call for.

I am certain that such openness and diversity of entertainment options will yield great economic and social results. The entertainment sector can achieve two things. First of all, it will create new investment opportunities and address the issue of unemployment, which is increasing in a worrying manner among young people, men and women alike.

If unemployment is not addressed, it will inevitably turn into a time bomb that will worsen and cause ruptures in society, shaking its security and stability. Secondly, it will attract the very same Saudi people who, in their millions, travel for entertainment. The huge sums of money spent outside the kingdom will thus be spent locally.

All I want to say is that cinemas will open and Islamic cinemas will open too. Concerts will be held and nasheed concerts will be held too. The Saudi people and the residents will thus have the right to choose where to go to entertain themselves.

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Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd
 

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Last Update: Saturday, 21 January 2017 KSA 16:20 - GMT 13:20
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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