Saudi's religious police seeks to soften image

Religious police patrol the streets in Saudi Arabia to enforce strict gender segregation laws.

Religious police patrol the streets in Saudi Arabia to enforce strict gender segregation laws.

Saudi religious police will stop car chases that have led to fatal accidents in the past, local media said on Tuesday, in an attempt to soften the image of a force that aggressively enforces Islamic Sharia laws.

Bearded members of the religious police patrol the streets in Saudi Arabia to enforce strict gender segregation laws and ensure that all shops close during Muslim prayer times and that men and women are modestly dressed.

Formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, religious police officers arrest those who do not adhere to their rules.

Involvement in violent incidents and lethal car chases has tarnished the reputation of the force.

"The car chases by the religious police will end," Alriyadh newspaper quoted the head of the force, Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh, as saying. A spokesman for the force confirmed this.

"We care a great deal to make the image of the commission a positive one that reflects the true image of Islam. There is no doubt that these (plans) portray a new vision for the commission," said the spokesman, Abdulmohsen al-Qifari.

Earlier this year, footage of religious police attacking a family outside a shopping mall in the capital, Riyadh, was posted on You Tube, registering more than 180,000 hits and generating much social media criticism of the force.

In January King Abdullah replaced the head of the religious police, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Humain, with Al al-Sheikh, who swiftly banned the activities of "volunteers" who take it on themselves to chase or detain arrest presumed sharia violators.

The Commision now wants to polish its image after repeated criticism at home and abroad, most notoriously after local media accused religious police of hampering efforts to rescue 15 girls who died inside a blazing Mecca school in 2002.

"We have carried out many training sessions to prepare our patrols for catching up with the times," Al al-Sheikh said.

Last week, Riyadh governor Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz eased restrictions that had prevented single men from entering shopping malls. The decision was supported by Al al-Sheikh.

Related:
Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Saudi Engineer

Imagine a car, in KSA or Dubai, racing down the highway at 160 km/h or so. Suddenly the car blows a tire, skids out of control, and slams head first into a light post.

Now try polishing it!!

Posted by: Calvin Pinto

Dont worry...at the rate your population is increasing, you will be as congested as India in no time and they will drive at only 60 km/hr or less. Now polish that.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Great escape? The UAE expat's dilemma

Great escape? The UAE expat's dilemma

The slowing economy has left ripples of uncertainty across the...

11
Beating the odds: Palestinian entrepreneurs continue to thrive

Beating the odds: Palestinian entrepreneurs continue to thrive

In the second article of a two-part series, Ambar Amleh, chief...

A bird's eye view of the UAE start-up ecosystem

A bird's eye view of the UAE start-up ecosystem

Tarek Ahmed Fouad, a Dubai-based serial entrepreneur, analyses...

Most Discussed
sponsoredTracking