Published On:24 June 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Saudi Arabia: Dishonouring the promotion of virtue

The Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is meant to guide the public in terms of extending religious wisdom and advice, and not enforce their views brutally

By Tariq A.Al Maeena

The Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) often draws fire from the media and the people on excesses committed by its members in enforcing their rules. Often these acts defy basic etiquette, as some members of the Haia tend to enforce their personal views about culture on people.

This has resulted in the removal and replacement of the Commission’s chief as well as others in the organisation who spoke against ongoing reforms that have been studiously aligned by the government with the tenets of Islam.

Earlier this year, the Commission chief stated that the Haia would be stripped of its powers to interrogate those who have been taken into custody or take penal action against them. Such powers are to be in the hands of the judicial authorities to take punitive measures.

Shaikh Abdul Latif Al Shaikh, the newly appointed head of the Commission added: “The regulations clearly specify the powers of the Commission in discharging its duties and not allowing interference in the powers of other agencies. Although the Commission can still arrest those carrying out flagrant offences, the cases of such people will be referred to the police and brought to justice, as the Haia will no longer have the right to determine charges against them.”

Photo Courtesy: Luis Vazquez/Gulf News
He denounced some of the vile measures taken by his officers, and stated that they would be dealt with firmly.

The Commission is meant to play the role of a guiding hand, extending religious wisdom and advice to the general public, and tracking down sources of crime that could harm the moral fabric of society, such as drugs or human trafficking. In other words, they are the moral police.

The Saudi public’s experiences in the past with Haia personnel has been one of excesses and extremes that has led to the damaging of their image, leading some to call for a debate on the Commission’s necessity within Saudi society while others have suggested prison terms for those members who abuse the law.

In one example of excesses that border on physical assault, a young lady was accosted by several officers of the Commission outside a restaurant past midnight and beaten. The following account was provided to me by an eyewitness on the scene that happened to be present at the same restaurant that evening.

She recounts: “My daughter and I had met up with some friends and were lost in conversation. On another table I noticed a couple having a late dinner. Time went by so fast when we realised that it was way past midnight. After we paid the bill and got up to leave, a group of men entered the family section of the restaurant, immediately making us fairly uneasy.

“I quickly recognised them as members of the moral police. They went over to the couple seated a few tables down and ordered the man to accompany them. Three of them then told the girl to come down the elevator with them. She refused, saying that she would not go alone with men. She walked alongside us for some security as we exited the restaurant.

“While we were waiting for our driver to pull up the car, I noticed her futilely trying to flag a taxi. With those men glowering about, I suggested that she accompany us and that we would drop her to her destination since her companion was being held up by the officers.

“As she entered our vehicle, two of the men approached the car. One practically lunged inside the vehicle and dragged her out, while she was protesting and resisting. The other came to the driver’s side and stuck half his body inside the window in an attempt to snatch the car keys.

Fortunately, the ignition was keyless. He then turned to join the other man who was manhandling the girl, while a third member told us to get out of there.

“I couldn’t leave the girl at their mercy and took out my phone to record these events, when the man who had lunged at the car started approaching us menacingly. I heard a thud at the rear of the vehicle as the poor girl was hit so hard that she slumped to the ground, her head hitting the wheel of our car. My Filipino driver at that moment gunned the engine and we took off before they could harm us as well. Along the way home, I wanted to go back and rescue the girl, but I was a woman against six or seven men and I had my daughter in the car with me. And they were the religious police.

“I could not get the vision of that poor helpless girl out of my mind, but then I decided I was not going to take it lying down. If the crime the poor girl had committed was being out alone with an unrelated male, it did not have to end up with her being beaten. I do not believe this is within the laws. If her family does not choose to press charges against such brutality, I shall not keep quiet. I am preparing an eyewitness account. I will then take it up with the highest authority in the Commission. Those men should be punished, or justice will not be done!”

This leaves me to wonder; do such acts by commission members promote any sort of virtue?

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 24, 2013. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on June 24, 2013. Filed under , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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