Group looks to remove women from TV, mags

LONDON — A group of hardline Saudi clerics have issued a statement urging the conservative kingdom’s new information minister to ban women from appearing in TV or in newspapers and magazines.

“We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you,” read the statement aimed at minister Abdel Aziz Khoja, who was tapped to the post Feb. 14. “We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book fair.”

The move is another sign of the backlash by clerics in the country against what they deem to be modernizing efforts in the media.

Earlier this month, a prominent Saudi scholar accused two media moguls of being as dangerous as drug dealers because the channels they own air films.

Youssef al-Ahmed, a professor at the ultra-conservative Al-Imam U. in Saudi Arabia, blasted Prince Al Waleed bin Talal and Sheik Al Waleed al-Ibrahim, who own the Rotana and MBC nets, respectively, for their attempts to modernize Saudi society through media.

Another Saudi cleric, Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan, issued a fatwa in September stating that it was permissible for the owners of pan-Arab satellites to be killed, accusing them of broadcasting corrupting programming.

The hardliner accused Arab TV execs of encouraging the “deviance of thousands of people.”

Khoja was one of a number of appointees made by Saudi King Abdullah in an attempt to push reform in the country.

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