RIYADH – Cinema is an evil, the chief of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said here Friday, one day after a long awaited and much celebrated cinema festival ended in Saudi Arabia
Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim Bin Abdullah Al-Ghaith, the Commission chief, then declared that the Commission is against opening movie theaters in the Kingdom.
His statement is bound to dampen the hopes of thousands of Saudi men, women and children who had enjoyed the 9-day cinema festival Dec. 10-18 in Jeddah and Taif, the highlight of which was “Manahi,” a comedy film with a touch of Saudi culture and tradition.
Organized by Rowad Media and Kawthar Foundation and Production, the festival had marked the return of public cinema in the country after 30 years. Ayman Halawani, director general of Rotana Studios, had hailed “Manahi” as “the first film in the revival of Saudi cinema.”
But Sheikh Al-Ghaith made it clear Friday that the Commission would have none of that.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of “The best nation (Ummah),” a 4-day annual forum held at King Fahd Cultural Center here. This year’s theme of the forum is “One Ummah.”
At an open meeting between Commission staff, media men and guests following the forum’s launch, Sheikh Al-Gaith spoke about how the Commission deals with ills in society. One prevalent problem was that of girls being blackmailed by young men. Sheikh Al-Gaith said the Commission deals with such problems in total secrecy even to the extent of not letting the girl’s family or relatives know about it. In several cases, the young men involved were taken to court or prison, he said.
The Sheikh said morality problems and complaints have increased with urban expansion and the proliferation of malls, and the Commission has a shortage of staffers to deal with them.
He denied that the Commission’s men have been barred from malls. On the contrary, he said, market owners and citizens were demanding that the Commission step up its presence in the malls.
Shoppers feel reassured when Commission staffers are present in the malls and, in turn, sales increase, he said.
In reply to a proposal that Commission staffers carry weapons, Sheikh Al-Gaith said Commission staffers would rather advise people kindly on the basis of religious knowledge. It is the police who carry weapons and they support the Commission in its work, he said.
Sheikh Al-Ghaith assured all secrecy in handling complaints. He invited the public to send any complaints, suggestions or criticism to his office fax number 01-4021639. None of the other Commission officials have access to faxes on this number, he said, adding that he would personally call a fax sender to thank them if the proposal or complaint is good.
He said the ongoing forum aims to remove misplaced fears in society about the Commission’s men.
The Commission wants good for all and seeks to safeguard the values and sublime morals of Saudi society, the Sheikh said, appealing to the public for more support. – With SPA