A coffee shop named after Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe in a Saudi city was shut down and its owner asked to change its name following a successful online campaign by the residents.
Saudis in Al Jouf in northern Saudi Arabia said that they did not want a shop carrying the name of the actress in their city and pressed their demands in a campaign to call for its boycott. The anti-shop drive was launched on microblogs and social networks and bloggers criticised the management of the mall where the coffee shop was located for approving the name. However, the campaign did not specify the reasons for refusing the Marilyn Monroe name, particularly as Saudi Arabia is home to several shops carrying the names of famous US and other Western entertainment figures.
In November, US celebrity and hotel heiress Paris Hilton expanded her handbags and accessories franchise to the holy city of Makkah, opening her fifth store in the Saudi kingdom.
The campaign this week convinced the mall management to steer away from the controversy.
“We had to seal off the coffee shop after we were surprised by its name,” Meflah Al Klaid, the Jawf Plaza Mall manager, said. “The shop was rented by an entrepreneur who did not brief us on the name or discuss it with us,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Sabq on Wednesday.
The company owning the mall said that the manager’s attitude clashed with the social values held in the city.
“The shop will not be allowed to re-open until it complies with the regulations,” the company said.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Violence said that it was not aware of the issue and that it had not been contacted by anyone.
Saudis commenting on the report on Sabq website varied between harsh criticism of the campaign targeting the coffee shop and open support.
Abu Nawaf said that the shop name was normal and that the outrage in the northern city was insignificant.
“All of this because of the name of an actress? You go to other cities in Saudi Arabia and you easily see names of well-known personalities,” he commented.
Another citizen, Doyoon, said that he could not see what was wrong with the name.
“It is just a coffee shop, not a religious institution or an official building. The locals should not have overreacted.”
However, Bin Mubtah said that residents could not accept the name of an actress who could not inspire young people and whose values clashed with the local culture.
“She was considered a sex symbol who reportedly committed suicide. There are so many other names from which the coffee shop owner could have chosen,” he said.
Menawi, a blogger, said that he pitied the owner “who thought that he could lure clients to his coffee shop with the name”.
“He should have been better aware of the values in the city and avoided provoking its residents,” he posted.
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