By Hihsam Kaaki
June 12, 2014
A few decades ago, when satellite TV channels began to show up in our homes, we erected satellite dishes on our roofs. We did this secretly although many dishes could be seen on the roofs of buildings in the neighborhood.
At that time, dish prices were very high sometimes as much as SR100, 000 for a really good one.
I remember when we first installed a satellite dish that many of our neighbors advised us to dismantle it and warned us against watching television programs. We told them that we were only watching news on the CNN and MBC channels. That was during the time of the first Gulf War. Our neighbors reluctantly accepted our explanation.
With the passage of time, the cost of satellite dishes was reduced and satellite TV channels entered every home in the Kingdom. All of those who were once opposed to such TV channels are now watching hundreds of them in the comfort of their own homes. They have realized that many of these channels are safe to watch.
Saudis who were totally against watching television, suddenly discovered that it was Halal (not against Islamic teaching) and could be watched at home. They passed this judgement on satellite TV channels as well. However, they remained adamant in their objection to cinemas.
The logical question here is: What makes television Halal and cinema haram (against Islam)? I do not know why Saudis who are opposed to cinemas keep silent about the satellite TV transmission which has entered every home.
A few years ago, the Fourth Jeddah Cinema Festival was cancelled a day before it was scheduled to start. This represented a real setback to the movie industry in our country. Cinemagoers were understandably frustrated.
The cancellation of the festival was not unexpected nor was it surprising because the cinema is still considered by some members of Saudi society to be against our religion. Saudi filmmakers were hoping that the festival would be reinstated, but it never was.
The truth is that it is satellite TV channels which should be carefully monitored, not films many of which are better for us to watch than the TV programs broadcast to our homes by satellite.
I am looking forward to the day when cinemas will be established in the Kingdom and will be accepted in the same way as television is today.