Saudis are banned from watching movies, and have been for about 30 years or so. I suppose viewing them is un-Islamic, because movies existed back during Mohammad’s day, and it says in the Quran: “Thou shalt not watch movies. They are very evil.” All jesting aside, they are actually allowed to rent films and watch television, though I assume in an extremely censored manner. It’s movie theatres, where God forbid genders would have to mix, that the hardliner, religious extremists have a problem with. Yes, because a woman sitting next to a man, decked out in her niqab, in a darkened room, might arouse the lust in the man sitting next to her.
The irony of it all is that even though it is banned in Saudi Arabia, Saudis actually travel hundreds of miles to their neighbour Bahrain to watch films there. How’s that for idiocy or hypocrisy or whatever you want to call it. Guaranteed, there are some films that deserve to be banned, but the movies themselves don’t seem to be as much an issue as the gender mixing.
Nothing compares to watching a movie on the ‘big screen’, rather than a 13 inch to 20 inch television; and sharing the experience with a large group of ‘others’ makes the experience even more enjoyable. That’s why the Saudis will travel so many miles to watch it in a movie theatre rather than in their living rooms, and apparently many do.
A documentary made last January in the Bahraini capital of Manama by Saudi daily “Al-Riyadh” revealed dramatic statistics.
According to an official in Bahrain City Center, one of the largest cinema complexes in the region, over 85% of clients of some 90 cinema halls of the small kingdom are from Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of young Saudis and entire families drive more than 500 km to watch a movie and then take the same route back to their country, via the causeway, according to the newspaper.
The traffic flow on the 26-kilometre-long “King Fahd Causeway can reach more than 30,000 vehicles, or about 90,000 passengers per day during weekends and religious holidays, revealed the official statistics.
It just shows that people will find a way to entertain themselves even if it’s part of a ban, so why the silly hardliners don’t just lift the ban is just plain stupid. There’s a lot of revenue they are missing out on, and the people are apparently fed up.
Most people interviewed by Al-Riyadh correspondent asked the same questions: “When are going to witness an end to tiredness, expenses and hazards of the road? When are we finally going to watch movies in the kingdom?” Questions that are also brought up by dozens of journalists and writers through the local press.
And just to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the privileged, religious elite, who always have that “do as I say, not as I do” mentality, those self-same critics of opening cinemas in Saudi Arabia are often found in the front seats of the Bahrain venues. I guess it’s okay for them, and other Saudis, to watch those “evil” movies in Bahrain, but not in the Kingdom. One of the bearded Saudi critics sitting in the front row said “Cinema in Saudi Arabia contributes to the rise of violence, encourages promiscuity and moral depravity,” My question is, why would it do that to them in Saudi Arabia but not in Bahrain? And would a Disney animated film encourage violence and promiscuity? Please. And according to the Al-Riyadh’s article that same conservative, who complained about the negative influence of films, loves the violent ones. He was about to watch Saw VI, “..because there are many sequences of endless violence and blood!” Such breathtaking hypocrisy.
It’s not that there aren’t those trying to foster change in the Kingdom, and even within the Royal Family, it’s just those darned religious clerics who mess everything up by being so insufferably intolerant, hypocrisy aside. Even Princess Adelah has said
“Many laws much change.”
“We must find a balance between decisions from the top and the society. We cannot change people overnight, but we cannot allow some traditions to ossify and become religious prescriptions over time,” stressed the king’s daughter, which also discussed her “fights” to move the Saudi society.
Good luck with getting the ultra-conservatives to go along with that change. But she’s absolutely right, life is all about balance!