The new head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is taking the reins of control into hand. Saudi Arabian media report that he is pulling the religious police back from some of the powers they had exerted in the past, including car chases over petty offenses, hectoring women about their makeup, and generally harassing the public over behaviors the individual muttawa believed sinful. Undercover patrols out looking for bad behavior (as opposed to actual crimes) are also being stopped.

This is all a good step. The next step is to get rid of the Haia entirely, allowing citizens to lead their own lives by their own moral guidance. That’s not likely to happen soon, however, as a majority of the Saudi public still believe the religious police have a valid role to play.

Haia will stop undercover patrols and car chases

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice intends to stop its undercover patrols, said President Abdullatif Aal Al-Sheikh on Monday.

At the opening of a training program for the commission’s field staff in Riyadh, Aal Al-Sheikh said that commission’s agents practice to chase cars in the streets “is a matter that is coming to an end”. He called on citizens to complain to the commission’s branch director if they were harassed by agents. “If the matter is not solved, the complaint can be filed with the commission’s president,” he said. Asked about the issue of banning young bachelors from malls, he said, “The ban is wrong and it created a problem out of nothing.” The commission has no right to prevent anyone from entering malls, he added.

Saudi Gazette reports a bit more extensively.

March:28:2012 - 09:31 | Comments & Trackbacks (8) | Permalink
8 Responses to “Dialing Back the Religious Police”
  1. 1
    Saudi Jawa Said:
    March:28:2012 - 09:55 

    I’m actually beginning to doubt we will be completely rid of the Hai’a. I’m not sure the Saudi psyche will allow it to. Sure it will probably curtail its power a lot, but not completely uproot it. The Saudi mentality is still that of a dependent. We need to be told what is morally correct and what isn’t, thus the popularity of the Hai’a and “fatwa hunting”. That comes, I think, from decades of living in a nanny state.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    March:28:2012 - 10:40 

    I agree it isn’t going to be changing soon. I don’t know what it is about the apparent need to be told what to do. That certainly wasn’t the case before the Saudi government got big, at least for day-to-day activities like earning a living. Perhaps the village imam did hold that kind of power, I don’t know. But I absolutely agree that by ceding decision-making to ‘powers that be’, it remains difficult to become a responsible person taking responsibility for one’s own choices in life.

  3. 3
    Majed Said:
    March:29:2012 - 03:20 

    I always hated it,when those (Agents)used to chase people during prayer times,literally forcing them I mean us to pray,and, some of us out fear of punishment and others out of shame of humiliation do pray,even though some of them I mean us,at times are not in situation to perform prayer,mostly for accessibility to water at that particular moment or for not having water in our houses for a week or more sometimes,and most of us come from places people live like fishes Alhamdulillah Allahumman laka alhamd,most people here have experience in cleaning up using rocks and tissues due to the nature of area yet they feel clean,but we feel very unclean and uncomfortable with that and can not certainly approach his Almighty in that state,but those Agent made people do that.

    Not to mention, that, even in this there is double standards,most often, when approaching their people i mean Saudis they reluctantly and politely tell them for once in very low voice Salaat Allah Yahdeek(prayer may Allah Guide you) and go their way, but to us the foreigners they shout on us and chase us and when not complying they load us like sheep into the back of their jeeps, but to tell the truth without knowing the reasons behind it such things have already become very uncommon ever since King Abdullah took over, even before the change you are talking about.

    But banning the bachelors from most of the malls still standing,I hope that will change soon,I have many malls in my mind that I would like to see,I hope it will soon be like Dubai,where one go anywhere anytime as long as you respect yourself and others.

    I would to say that,it is wrong to say that all Saudis like to be told what do, actually it is 50/50 half like to be be told what to do and the other half like to tell people what they should or should not do,to the extent that even if they dissolve that Virtue commission for good, you will see those who like to tell people what to do taking over the tasks of virtue commission upon their shoulders for free yet be more sincere and fierce in that.

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