Saudi Arabia scholar Sheikh Omar al-Muqbil 'held' after criticising entertainment authority

Saudi Arabia scholar Sheikh Omar al-Muqbil ‘held’ after criticising entertainment authority

Professor of Islamic law at Qassim University in,Sheikh Omar al-Muqbil, has been arrested and detained after he criticised the policies of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) as a threat to the kingdom’s culture.

This was made known in a Twitter post by prisoners’ rights group, the Prisoners of Conscience that the scholar was arrested after a video in which he described the GEA’s actions as “erasing the original identity of society”. The video has been trending.

Over the past year, the GEA has hosted a number of music stars including Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Sean Paul, in an attempt to boost the image of Saudi Arabia globally.

Last year, the authority announced plans to invest $64bn in the entertainment sector during the next decade as part of a programme of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the world’s top oil exporter.

The move is to attract Western investment to offset the effect of a slump in the price of oil that began in 2014. Other measures include ending decades-long bans on women driving, cinemas and mixed-gender concerts.

Good numbers of academics, economists, writers and human rights activists have been arrested in recent years in an apparent bid to stamp out dissent and opposition to Prince Mohammed, who has consolidated power with a purported anti-corruption crackdown.

The rich oil producing kingdom has faces widespread from international criticism over the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul almost a year ago, allegedly by members of Prince Mohammed’s entourage, as well as over its long-running war in Yemen.