Saudi religious police banned from spying, car chases

Haia chief warns against religious fanaticism, says 'human wolves' are blackmailing women to perform their 'illegitimate desires'
Saudis Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh. (AFP/Getty Images)
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 24 Jun 2014 01:49 PM

Saudi Arabia’s notorious religious police have been banned from spying on residents and car chases, according to local media.

President of the Commission for Promotion of Virtues and Prevention of Vice (Haia), Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Asheikh, also reportedly warned members not to show signs of extremism or religious fanaticism.

Two members of Haia – otherwise known as the religious police - earlier this year were accused of causing the deaths of two brothers after their car crashed while they were being pursued.

A Haia patrol vehicle allegedly crashed into the brother’s sedan and forced it off an overpass, onto a lower road, while the Haia members allegedly fled the scene.

A court later dismissed a case against the Haia members.

The organisation also is known to harass women not properly wearing the Islamic abaya and headscarf, compulsory in the kingdom, as well as arresting women who drive, despite there being no official legislation banning female drivers.

During a speech this week, Al Asheikh said there were six acts Haia members should refrain from: spying, extremism, fanaticism, authoritarianism, harming people and chasing suspects, according to local Arabic daily Al Watan.

He said Haia members – who are all men - had been instructed to never abuse residents and to be “lenient” and “nice”.

"No one should be falsely accused or deliberately harassed. The Haia men should not resort to devious means just to incriminate the others," he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Al Asheikh said there had been an increase in men threatening to publish photos of women if they did not succumb to their “illegitimate desires”.

He called for tougher laws to punish blackmailers, who he described as being "sick people" attempting to dominate and enslave women, and urged families to protect their women so they did not fall prey to "human wolves", Al Watan reported.

Al Asheikh said the religious police recently had handled more than 700 cases of perverts, as well as closing down 24,500 promiscuous websites and 750 makeshift alcohol breweries and confiscating SR15m ($4m) worth of alcohol.

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