IT IS not easy
June 23, 2007
"IT IS not easy being a religious policeman", says the Economist and it's hard to disagree.
Apart from these tiresome duties, being a religious policeman has a nasty downside in the form of the total lack of appreciation and gratitude on the part of wide sections of the Saudi public. Things had got particularly shit for the Haya in 2002 as a result of a bizarre accident in which Haya agents prevented students from fleeing a girls' school that went up in flames, on the grounds that in their panic the girls have largely neglected to attire themselves properly. Fourteen girls having been burned alive inside the school, an avalanche of stifling rules and restrictions had descended on the members of hapless moral police who were occasionally even required to wear badges while on duty. To add to the insult, at the peak of this atrocious and torturous campaign some of the mutawaeen, as moral policemen are generally known, were sent to special training sessions that included crash courses in how to be polite to the public.
The 5,000-odd agents of Saudi Arabia's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (commonly referred to as the Haya, or Commission) carry a heavy burden of responsibility. Not only must they do things such as make sure shops close for the five daily prayers, enforce modesty of attire and strict separation of the sexes in public, prevent sorcery, and round up bootleggers and drug dealers. They must also impose summary new bans, such as recent ones against trading in pet cats and dogs in the port city of Jeddah, and against barbers offering Western-style haircuts that “imitate unbelievers” in Medina, Islam's second holiest city.
Since then the mutawaeen were working very hard on one hand to prevent pet cats and dogs from ever desecrating the holy land of the birth place of Muhammad, while on the other rendering the new rules and restrictions largely ineffective through the complicity of regular police.
Lately a new spate of media reports about people who died while in the custody of Haya has renewed hopes of Saudi liberals of finally seeing the mutawaeen brought under control. The latest anti Haya push was started by a Saudi woman, a fact that sure makes the mutawaeen even more unhappy. The woman filed a suit against the Haya demanding compensation for a host of moral and economic damages inflicted on her by a team of mutawaeen who on that particular day and for unknown reasons have got particularly enthusiastic about carrying out their job.
Some Saudi liberals find encouraging signs to the accelerating pace of changes and reforms in the kingdom, citing as an example riding bicycles and smoking cigarettes, things unthinkable a few decades ago. However despite these impressive achievements by the country that literally storms its way into 22nd century, the Economist remains largely optimistic for the future of Haya, noticing:
She charges that agents accosted her and her daughter outside a shopping mall, accused them of being underdressed, dragged their driver from his seat and, while commandeering the car to drive the accused women to vice-squad headquarters for questioning, drove so recklessly that they crashed into a lamppost, injuring the passengers.
There are even more compelling reasons for the fans and enthusiasts of moral police to reject suggestions that the Haya is a spent force. After all, liberal or not, the Saudis always remain Saudis, a profoundly moral and ethical bunch. These are not folks who will ever leave a virtue to die unattended on the street. Neither the Saudi is a place where vice is taken lightly, a fact the following clip so dramatically illustrates.
Yet the commission has good reason to be confident of its future. For one thing, its mission of promoting virtue and preventing vice, while perhaps not well defined, remains a scriptural Islamic injunction. In a state that proclaims the Koran as its constitution, this cannot easily be dismissed. For another, the Haya's existence helps solve two pressing social problems: high unemployment and a very large surplus of graduates in religious studies.
June 24, 2007
I've been tagged by Lirun.
Here is the list:
1) I once worked in a company run by religious people. With my suggestion all workers adopted the term 'taliban' when referring to the managers. The managers too have later adopted it.
2) I possess an elevated capacity for massive intake of alcohol, stimulants and psychedelic substances.
3) I can party through the whole weekend taking occasional naps in chill-out rooms.
4) I am afflicted with the worst form of attention deficit disorder possible, which means I spend most of my life either totally spaced out or over-concentrated on something.
5) For the afore mentioned reason my style of driving is the most dangerous thing you can encounter on the road.
6) For the same reason i refused a car offered to me by my current company, motivating my refusal on the grounds that it's not good to kill so many people.
7) I don't read romans and novellas. I read only professional and technical literature. I consider a standard textbook on statistics or macroeconomics the best possible read before sleep.
8) I am a hardline right winger who supports going to a war with Syria and population exchanges between Israel and the PA as proposed by Lieberman. Yet my best friend is an Israeli Arab and I spend a significant part of my free time chatting with Arab bloggers.
9) I consider Lirun and Tsedek clinical cases of unbalanced emotionality and unrestrained sentimentality, a psychiatric syndrome which is very symptomatic of our age and represents a real danger for Western civilization. I consider Nizo much more like a normal person than these two.
10) My ultimate goal is to win the Nobel Peace Prize which i see as the final destination of my life and professional career.
My official policy is to never take part in any tagging. For this reason i am not tagging anybody. The list above was provided as a one time courtesy to Lirun in a probably vain hope that he will appreciate the favor and stop his nasty peace propaganda.
June 24, 2007
By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer
Sat Jun 23
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A judge on Saturday postponed the trial of three members of Saudi Arabia's religious police for their alleged involvement in the death of a man arrested after being seen with a woman who was not his relative.
. . .
Ahmed al-Bulaiwi, a retired border patrol guard in his early 50s, died in custody shortly after his June 1 arrest by religious police in the northern city of Tabuk.
"He went into custody a healthy man. He got out in a funeral procession," his cousin, Audah al-Bulaiwi, who is representing the family in court, told The Associated Press by phone from Tabuk.
The police became suspicious after they observed the woman getting into his car near an amusement park, according to accounts published by the local media. Under the kingdom's rules, a woman cannot drive, and can only go out in public with her father, brother, son or husband.
An investigation showed that al-Bulaiwi, who supplemented his pension by working as a driver, was asked by the family of the woman, who was in her 50s, to drive her home, according to press reports.
. . .
The Tabuk governorate said al-Bulaiwi died as a result of a severe drop in blood pressure and failure of the respiratory system.
. . .
Another investigation is under way into a second fatal incident, in which Saudi national Sulaiman al-Huraisi died last month while in custody of the religious police who had raided his house in Riyadh because they suspected he had alcohol on the premises. Liquor is illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Lahem said witnesses reported that the muttawa beat al-Huraisi "severely" and that he was bleeding heavily when he was taken into their custody.
. . .
June 25, 2007
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