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.
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.