Restaurants and cafes will now be able to apply for entertainment licenses to host music and comedy events as Saudi Arabia ramps up its entertainment offerings in 2019, General Entertainment Authority chairman Turki Al-Sheikh announced on Tuesday as reported by The Arabian Business.
Speaking to media in Saudi Arabia, Al-Sheikh said that the move forms part of a wider plan to turn Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s top 10 entertainment destinations.
As part of the strategy, the GEA has entered into long-term contracts with over 100 local and international partners. Alongside this, one of Saudi’s university – Taif University has announced they will be holding training sessions in singing, poetry and the playing of musical instruments, even though it’s not part of the city university’s curriculum.
According to Al-Sheikh, culturally relevant – such as Quran recitations contests – will be an important part of the event.
“Competitions are an important element of entertainment,” Al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by Arab News. “The most important will take place during Ramadan and will be of an Islamic nature.”
Additionally, Al-Sheikh announced that a prize of SAR 1 million ($266,620) will be awarded to participants in a Hijra journey contest, in which participants reenact the Prophet Mohammed’s journey between Makkah and Madinah.
Other entertainment options will include e-gaming events, concerts, plays, car ‘drifting’ competitions, stand-up comedy and magic shows, as well as exhibition football matches featuring the likes of David Beckham and Zenedine Zidane.
Al-Sheikh added that the GEA is also exploring the possibility of holding a US National Basketball Association (NBA) event in the kingdom, and plans to open a Madame Tussauds wax museum in 2019.
All the events, he added, will respect local cultural values.
“Our religion is clear and we will adhere to our Islamic values,” he said. “This is us. We used to be like this 40 years ago, now we are returning to what we had.”
Looking to the future, Al-Sheikh said that the GEA hopes to find local talent that can then go on to flourish internationally, and that the entertainment sector will be a key pillar of providing investment and employment opportunities.
“Entertainment is a sector we heavily rely on for Vision 2030 in realising our dreams,” he said. “We won’t attain our goals unless we work together.”
Director of the poetry academy, Dr. Mansour Al-Harthi, told Arab News that 500 students had enrolled on the music course, adding that the city of Taif had long been renowned for its musical activities.
For Muslims who adhere to the original teachings of Islam, they would deem it completely forbidden to promote acts involving music, magic, statue making and concerts where free mixing will be free to occur.
A number of teachings from the Quran and the authentic teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) can be used to back this, here’s one recorded in Sahih Bukhari 5590:
Among my ummah there will certainly be people who permit zinaa, silk, alcohol and musical instruments…
Falsehood and truthful matters simply cannot mix together, so having Quranic competitions are no doubt nice to hear, but that doesn’t then justify putting the impressible in action too.
Liberalism and secularism are being championed and Muslims from various walks of life are falling into them, something that again Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) predicted.
Do not be deluded by this temporary world for we will leave it. Stay firm upon the truth, even if you are alone upon it. May Allah Azzawajal guide the Ummah and grant us righteous leaders.