- Saudis are furious after a musician was filmed singing verses of the Quran at a concert
- The performance took place during Saudi national day celebrations
- Many have blamed the government's new "Entertainment Authority" for "moral degradation"
- There is a growing divide in attitudes between liberal and conservative Saudis
by Rosie Alfatlawi
A Saudi musician has stirred anger after he sung verses of the Qu’ran at a concert.
While the permissibility of playing music for Muslims is disputed, singing the religious text is generally not accepted in orthodox Islam.
During Saudi Arabia's national day celebrations on Saturday, Talal Salama was filmed singing the words of Surat al-Falaq.
As a video of the incident spread, enraged Saudis launched the hashtags “Talal Salama sings a verse of the Quran” and “the Quran to music with the agreement of [the General Authority for] Entertainment”.
The General Authority for Entertainment was set up in May 2016 as part of the Saudi government's reformist Vision 2030 economic plan. The government body was behind the first Comic Con hosted by Saudi Arabia in February, and has screened movies despite the country having no cinemas.
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In a nation where the very celebration of a non-religious occasion is condemned by religious authorities, unsurprisingly this incident provoked fury.
The issue of music is so controversial in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia that concerts are rare and often draw public anger and resistance. For instance, an online campaign demanding popular Saudi singer Mohammed Abduh cancel his performance in Jeddah was launched in December.
In comments on Twitter, lawyer and legal advisor Musleh al-’Udayani described Salama's actions as “an insult to the Holy Quran”. He added that this carried a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of three million riyals (approx. $800,000).
عقوبة امتهان القران الكريم في حفل غنائي سجن يصل ل5 سنوات وغرامة تصل 3 ملايين ريال أو بكلا العقوبتين— مصلح العضياني (@musleh_lawyer) September 25, 2017
كما نصت م6 من مكافحة الجرائم المعلوماتية
Many Saudis on social media directed anger about the Entertainment Authority:
For the first time I am scared about the future. The “Westernization Authority” is responsible.
#قران_بالموسيقي_بموافقه_الترفيه— جيزآني طقطقة (@Gizani_07) September 25, 2017
المصيبه مو بس إنه جالس يلحن القرآن المصيبه إلي سمح له يغني جهه معتمده من قبل الحكومه ( هيئة الترفيه ) !
The disaster is not just that he is sitting singing the Quran, the disaster is that it was a party approved by the government that is allowing him to sing (the Entertainment Authority)
#طلال_سلامه_يغني_سوره_من_القران : هنا يأتي دور هيئة كبار العلماء ولجنة الأفتاء في تبيان هذا الأمر ومحاسبة المسيء وتوضيح مفهوم الوطنية !!— أبو لـُجين إبراهيم (@abulojain1) September 25, 2017
Here comes the role of the senior scholars and the Ifta committee to shed light upon this matter, hold the insulter to account and clarify the concept of patriotism!!
"This is the result of the suspension of the Committee" @azooz_alshehri2 wrote on Twitter, refering to the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, or the religious police. In April 2016, the Saudi Council of Ministers issued a regulation stripping the religious police of their powers.
Many of the comments revealed the rift that remains in attitudes between an increasingly liberal minority, reflected by the gradual liberalization of laws, and the majority of Saudi society where social and religious conservatism prevails.
Tweets bemoaned what was described as moral decay and degradation.
And this is what happened in the city of the Prophet peace be upon him! What has happened to the people. Oh Allah, do not hold us responsible for what the foolish do.
@toofi88810 tweeted: “A finished people who interpret everything as they wish and justify or forbid as they wish. I challenge you to ask one of them what are the pillars of Islam, he won't know.”
“Degeneration has reached the level of singing the Quran”, wrote @Naail2014, appealing to God not to “punish us for their immorality.”
No official statement has been made as to whether action will be taken against the singer.
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