Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has objected to the reforms initiated in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In a bulletin released on Friday, the outfit referred to the reopening of movie theatres, circus shows and a wrestling event as “sinful projects”, AFP reported.

“The new era of Bin Salman replaced mosques with movie theatres,” the jihadist group said, adding that he “substituted books that belonged to the imams...with absurdities of the atheists and secularists from the east and the west and opened the door wide for corruption and moral degradation”.

The statement also attacked the wrestling event in Jeddah held in April. “[Foreign] disbelieving wrestlers exposed their privates and on most of them was the sign of the cross, in front of a mixed gathering of young Muslim men and women,” the AQAP said. “The corruptors did not stop at that – for every night musical concerts are being announced, as well as movies and circus shows.”

Cinemas opened in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years in April after the kingdom lifted its ban on movie theatres last December.

Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms under the crown prince, including allowing women to drive from June. In October, the country said it will allow women into three sports stadiums from next year.

The crown prince had also vowed to focus on eradicating extremism within his kingdom and a return to “moderate Islam”. He said Saudi Arabia was “not like this in the past”. “We will eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon,” he had said. “We represent the moderate teachings and principles of Islam.”