The world’s largest female-only university has been embroiled in a public spat with Saudi Arabia’s religious police over the reported presence of men on campus.
According to English language Saudi Gazette newspaper, the Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh rejected a request from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to open an office within its grounds.
Princess Nora University has around 56,000 female students and academic staff, but is said to have drawn the ire of the kingdom’s hardline conservative establishment due to reports of young men sneaking onto the campus and photos of females running in a marathon which appeared on Twitter.
Saudi Gazette said earlier this month that a vehicle belonging to the religious police had attempted to enter the campus without permission, but had been turned away by university security. According to the newspaper, the commission would have to obtain the consent of both the Ministry of Higher Education and the powerful Council of Ministers before it could move onto the university grounds.
The Haia, or religious police, are appointed by the government to enforce strict Sharia law in the Gulf kingdom, including the separation of unrelated males and females, dress code and Islamic food rules.
It has been criticised in the past for abusing its powers, including last month when the Saudi Minister of Labour accused the Haia of violating an agreement on the feminisation of lingerie and accessory shops by forcing employers to implement strict rules that do not exist.
The religious police also are known to enforce a custom that prevents women from driving in the kingdom, despite there being no formal law.