Buggered Mind of Neale Sourna, The

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Saudi religious police detain Star Academy winner for causing indecent stir

Entertainment - Canadian Press
Yahoo! News
Saudi religious police detain Star Academy winner for causing indecent stir

Sat Apr 23, 1:48 PM ET
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Star or not, Saudi Arabia's enforcers of virtue make no exceptions: handshakes and congratulatory kisses in mixed company do not belong in a public mall.

Religious authorities briefly detained Saudi singer Hisham Abdel Rahman, made famous in the Arab World by winning this year's Star Academy reality TV show for causing an indecent scene, a Riyadh police official said Saturday. Star Academy is based on a French show of the same name and as wildly popular in the Arab world as the like-minded U.S. show, American Idol.

Male and female fans had spotted Abdel Rahman, 24, strolling through Kingdom Tower Mall on Wednesday and rushed to him to shake his hand and bestow congratulatory kisses.

Members of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the formal name for Saudi' Arabia's religious police, doing their regular mall patrol were upset by the scene, which they deemed "improper," the police official said on condition of anonymity.

The religious police tried to disperse the crowd and told Abdel Rahman to leave the mall, however, the young star reportedly refused and started squabbling with the clerics.

Abdel Rahman was forcibly escorted out and taken to the religious police offices for questioning. He was briefly held before a senior official intervened to secure his release, the police official said.

Abdel Rahman was flown to his hometown of Jiddah, the official said.

Arab News quoted Bander al-Mutairy, an official at the religious police office that detained Abdel Rahman as saying he had "violated a rule and created chaos in the (Kingdom) Tower Mall and that had to be stopped."

Conservative clerics in the kingdom have criticized the Star Academy show since its start.

Grand Mufti Adul-Aziz al-Sheik, the kingdom's highest religious authority, issued an edict last year calling the show an open invitation to sin, saying Muslims should avoid it. Al-Sheik condemned Star Academy for showing unmarried men and women mixing in a house, saying it "killed modesty." In the conservative Middle East, society dictates that unrelated, single men and women must not live together. Saudi Arabia forbids any such public interaction. Women must be covered head to toe, except for their faces and hands, when outside their homes.

Islamic fundamentalists writing on Internet forums also have denounced the show as immoral. Other reality TV shows were also condemned by clerics in Bahrain and Kuwait.

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