04/02/2009, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA

Religious police arrest famous actors, because men and women were performing together

The muttawa raids a hotel where a popular television series was being filmed. The actors have been released on bail, and one woman has been subjected to a moral education session. There is sharp division in the country between the fundamentalist religious leaders and those who want more freedom.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A blitz by the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the religious police, or muttawa), who early in the morning of March 30 raided a famous hotel in Riyadh and took away the actors and production staff for a television series.

Three actors and one actress were taken to the local police station, and later released on bail. According to a local newspaper, they are the famous Omani actor Ebrahim Al Zidjali, the actors Ali Saad and Fawaz Al Jaser, and the actress Sahar.

Local sources explain that the religious police intervened because scenes were filmed at the hotel in which male and female actors were on the set together. For this reason, Sahar was also taken to a center of the Commission where female officers explained to her the consequences and dangers of being with men in public places.

The actors were filming an episode of the series "Ayyamu Al Surab" (the days of Surab) produced by Al Sadaf. After the raid, the other members of the group immediately left the hotel.

Ebrahim Al Zidjali has commented that he does not understand why it is prohibited to film the scenes in the country, since public television broadcasts similar series that include scenes filmed in public places with authorization from the authorities.

In Saudi Arabia, religious leaders have repeatedly lashed out against movies, music, and many television shows which they call immoral and worthless. There is a true split in the country between the authorities, many of whom follow this kind of teaching, and an increasingly large base of young liberals who want more openness, more freedom for women, and the authorization of different forms of entertainment.

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