Saudi Arabia to restrict religious police's powers
CAIRO, October 4 - RAPSI. The Saudi Arabian Consultative Council has drawn up regulations governing the activities of the religious police which will ban its officers from detaining religious violation perpetrators, Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, stated on Wednesday.
The "mutaween" religious police will no longer be entitled to chase, detain and interrogate infringers, or even investigate offenses related to the violation of the strict moral standards set in Saudi Arabia.
The commission will now be monitoring the morality of the kingdom's residents based on Sharia law. In recent years, the "mutaween" have been criticized on many occasions, both domestically and internationally for the methods used to uncover violations. They often spied on their suspects and even chased after them in cars.
The "mutaween" as a rule wear traditional Saudi costume and have long beards. They can be seen in Saudi Arabia's streets and hypermarkets. They supervise the segregation of men and women, check people's appearance and make sure shops close in time for prayers. In 2010, the religious police called over 250,000 people to account.
Last week Saudi Arabia's strict religious laws came under fire and caused a major diplomatic row with Nigeria when, according to a New York Times report, approximately 1,000 Nigerian women who had come to the country to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage without appropriate male accompaniment were detained and ultimately deported.
The Guardian reported, "Women in Saudi Arabia are regarded as minors and require the permission of their guardian - father, brother, or husband - to leave the country, receive some kinds of medical treatment or work. They are not allowed to drive and are often expected to be accompanied in public by a male chaperone."