Haifaa al-Mansour, Mahmoud Sabbagh, Reem al-Bayyat and other Saudi directors worked on their movies in Saudi Arabia and their teams mainly consisted of Saudis. However, the movies were screened outside the kingdom because someone decided on behalf of people that cinema corrupts morals, westernizes youths and dismantles families and must thus not be allowed in Saudi Arabia!
The Saudi culture and information ministry’s decision to allow cinemas to open in 2018 puts an end to this confiscation of individual’s freedom of choice and his right to practice a normal life without any constraints imposed by others.
Many societies think cinema is a marginal issue that was finalized many years ago and is no longer a topic for discussion. Some may thus be surprised by the Saudis’ joy over the "promised cinema.”
Cinemas are very normal in societies which have been not hijacked by extremist fundamentalist movements that for years aimed to shape public awareness according to their own vision of life and perspective which is based on the notion that they are representatives of Islam in its pure form while ignoring the fact that no one in our time or in previous times can get hold of this “essence.”
However, no one has the right to narrow people’s options and force them to follow one example. This would be a violation of human rights from a modern civilized perspective.Hassan Al Mustafa
Individuals’ and group’s belief in certain ideas – even if viewed as backwards opinions by others – falls within the context of freedom of choice. One has every right to choose to be isolated from modern life and live away from technology. This is his business and no one can prevent him from doing so. One also has the right to defend his idea and market it via proper and legal methods.
However, no one has the right to narrow people’s options and force them to follow one example. This would be a violation of human rights from a modern civilized perspective. By adopting the latter approach, we will have deprived man of his right to practice his freedoms and oppressed his desires.
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Man without freedom loses the essence of his humanity and becomes incapable of innovating, creating and thinking.
Therefore, the presence of cinemas in Saudi Arabia means people will restore their right to choose what they want, whether to sit at home or go watch a movie alone or with friends or family. They will have a normal life. Although the issue of the cinema is actually simple, it has great social and cultural significance which can gradually pave way towards a modern, civil and developed society.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.