Saudi call to ban film screenings

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - Hundreds of conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia have signed a petition demanding a stop to what they say is a trend of films being shown in public.

The petition has been motivated in particular by the showing of a home-grown Saudi film in Jeddah last year.

It was financed by the Rotana network, which dominates Arab entertainment and is owned by the billionaire Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal.

There have been no cinemas in Saudi Arabia since the 1970s.

And there are unlikely to be any soon.

But even such a rigorously controlled event as the showing of the first Saudi feature film at two venues in Jeddah late last year has aroused the suspicions of Islamic conservatives.

They say cinemas fill people's minds with evil and pollute the purity of their souls.

The introduction of radio, TV, satellite TV and other communication technologies have all, in the past, been opposed by the Saudi conservative establishment.

More recently, camera-phones have been vehemently condemned - although that has done nothing to dent their huge popularity.