Saudi religious police now to be ‘kind and gentle’ to encourage “virtue”.
Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice: هيئة الأمر بالمعروف و النهي عن المنكر
There has been much talk of ‘conservative’ Islamic values.
Here’s somewhere where one version of them are put into practice by a special politice force.
The BBC reports.
The Saudi authorities have moved to curb the powers of the notorious religious police, or “mutawa”.
Members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice will no longer be permitted to chase suspects or arrest them.
They must instead report observations to security forces personnel.
Religious police officers, who roam the streets enforcing strict standards of social behaviour, are frequently accused of abusing their powers.
Several were reportedly arrested in February for allegedly assaulting (YouTube video) a young woman outside a shopping centre in the capital, Riyadh.
In 2013, four officers were accused of causing a fatal car crash when they pursued two brothers who had refused to turn the radio down in their vehicle. However, a court subsequently acquitted them.
‘Gentle and humane’
The new law governing the religious police was approved by the cabinet on Monday, but was not published by the official Saudi Press Agency until Tuesday.
Officers will continue to help enforce strict segregation of the sexes, an absolute prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol, a ban on women driving and many other social restrictions.
But the new law stipulates that their mission has been amended to “carrying out the duty of promoting virtue and preventing vice in a gentle and humane way, after the model set in this regard by the Prophet [Muhammad] and his rightful successors”.
They will also be obliged to display clear identification, showing their names, posts, jurisdictions and official working hours.
The law stipulates that officers will no longer be permitted to pursue suspects, arrest them or ask for identification – only report suspicious behaviour to regular police and anti-drug units, who will decide whether to take the matter further.
|Riyadh: The powers of the powerful Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the religious police in Saudi Arabia have been limited and they have been banned from chasing, arresting or asking for the identity papers of anyone.
As per a new structure and set of regulations endorsed by the cabinet at its weekly meeting, the commission will not move into action themselves and will report suspicious cases to the police or the anti-drugs squads who will be fully in charge of all the measures including chasing, arresting, detaining and questioning suspects.
The role of the commission will be limited to promoting Islamic values and supporting the specialized anti-drugs agencies in the fight against drugs by explaining their negative effects on families and the community.
Commission members will carry out their tasks in markets and public places and will work within specific times scheduled by their centres.
According to the new regulations, every member must display prominently a badge that carries his name, position, centre, and official working hours.
Conditions for recruiting new members include a high education degree, competence to promote virtue and prevent vice, a good reputation and satisfactory behaviour.
The commission has often waded into controversy over its specific role and immense powers, following incidents, clashes and standoffs with Saudi citizens that triggered calls to reduce its prerogatives and hand them over to the police.
In February, a video clip that showed a girl being beaten up in front of the Nakheel Mall in the capital Riyadh sparked outrage in Saudi Arabia. The girl and her friend were reportedly walking near the mall when they had a ‘bitter standoff’ with members of the commission.