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Saudi Arabia on moderation path without moral breakdown: Top Royal Court official

Sunday April 22, 2018 2:20 PM, & Agencies

Saudi Moderation

Riyadh: Facing immense pressure from conservatives because of a series of women-friendly measures and opening of cinema halls in the Kingdom, a top Royal Court official on Saturday clarified that though on path of moderation, Saudi Arabia will never compromise with moral values.

"The decision by Saudi Aports Authorities is not surprising. It was expected and awaited and is reminiscent of the fact that the Kingdom is on the path of moderation without moral breakdown", Saud Al Qahtani, a media adviser to the royal court said in a Twitter message.

Qahtani was lauding the Saudi Sports Authority's swift response to shut down a female fitness centre in Riyadh over a contentious promotional video that appeared to show a woman in figure-hugging workout attire.

"We are not going to tolerate this," Saudi sports authority chief Turki Al Sheikh tweeted as he ordered that the centre's licence be withdrawn. Turki Al Sheikh, an adviser to powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also told authorities to investigate and prosecute those behind the video, according to AFP.

The video, which was widely circulated on social media but could not be independently verified by AFP, showed a woman with uncovered hair in what appeared to be a gym and kicking a punching bag. The General Sports Authority said the video contained scenes that could corrupt public morals.

Women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear body-shrouding abaya robes and also cover their hair in public. Last July, police questioned a woman after she appeared in a series of videos, initially posted to Snapchat, wearing a crop top and a high-waisted miniskirt. She had been filmed walking through the historic fort of Ushaiqer, north of Riyadh, and playing with sand in the dunes. She was later released without charge.

Saudi Arabia, in the midst of a far-reaching liberalisation drive, has lifted a ban on driving for women and they be allowed to drive from June this year. Recently, the Saudi Authorities also permitted them to enter sports stadiums for the first time.

The Saudi government is also seeking to jump-start women's sports and is moving towards compulsory physical education classes for girls, after a ban was lifted in 2014. Besides these measures, the Saudi government has given permission to international companies to open cinemas and theatres in the Kingdom.

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