A professor of Islamic Law at Qassim University in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Omar al-Muqbil, has been arrested and detained after he criticised the policies of the General Entertainment Authority as a threat to the kingdom’s culture. 

A group, Prisoners of Conscience, made Muabil’s detention known in a post on Twitter. 

“This is a continuation of the arbitrary arrests that have taken place in the kingdom for the past two years, which are aimed at leading scholars, sheikhs and other free thinkers,” the group was quoted as saying by Al-Jazeera.

In recent times, the GEA had hosted a number of music stars including Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Sean Paul in an attempt to boost the image of Saudi Arabia globally.

Last year, the authority announced plans to invest $64bn in the entertainment sector during the next decade as part of a programme of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

The reforms stem partly from an economic motive to increase domestic spending on entertainment and attract Western investment to offset the effect of a slump in the price of oil that began in 2014.

Other measures include ending decades-long ban on women driving, cinemas and mixed-gender concerts.

The heavyweight boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz taking place in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia, on December 7, is also seen as part of that drive to open up the kingdom more to the outside world. 

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