Saudi artist Maher al-Luqman is always nervous when he goes on stage to eat glass and fire or to walk on nails, for fear the country’s religious police will disrupt his show. (Photo: A fire eater at work, December 8, 2007/Yiorgos Karahalis)
The leader of a troupe of 12 strongmen, Luqman struggles for acceptance in a country whose austere version of Sunni Islam means that many forms of entertainment and unusual feats of strength are sometimes seen as sorcery.
“They have stopped us for two years, branding us as sorcerers, and calling for people to fight us and report us,” Luqman, 35, told Reuters.
Bearded religious policemen roam the streets of the Gulf Arab kingdom of 25 million people to enforce gender segregation, search for drugs and alcohol and to stop behaviour they consider immoral. Luqman’s group had permission to perform last week in a desert town 200 km north of the capital Riyadh but was abruptly stopped from going on stage by an order from the religious police.
“I am fed up. I want to leave. It is so sad to see these talents go to waste,” Luqman said.