Monday, August 31, 2009

Saudi Vice squad vs. the circus

If this report is correct, the Saudi vice squad is sometimes going against the wishes of the Saudi government itself:
The Commission for Promotion of Virtues and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) is cracking down on summer festivals that the government hopes will promote domestic tourism.

“These acts contradict the faith and must not be done, taught, spread or encouraged,” the Hai’a spokesman Abdullah Al-Mashiti told Al-Watan Arabic daily this week, referring to circus acts such as fire-eating and lying on beds of glass that he believes is a form of magic prohibited by Islamic Shariah law.

They must be fought and those performing them must be reported and punished so as to be deterred and their evil restricted,” he said.

Reports suggest that the Hai’a was behind the last minute cancellation of the Jeddah summer film festival.

This month music concerts were also banned from the Abha tourism festival, in the mountainous southwest of the Kingdom. “Unfortunately such actions carried on by them (the Hai’a) do not adhere to the official political will and they sabotage the government efforts to improve and maintain the internal tourism industry,” said Mahmoud Sabbagh, a newspaper columnist.
Meanwhile, the muttawa has other pressing issues as well:
Worshippers in the Eastern Province have been warned they could be arrested by officials if they conduct prayers in mosques sporting “unsuitable” fashions.

A notice from mosque Imams in the region has reportedly been circulated informing of a ban on persons wearing “unusual and immodest clothes” from entering mosque premises, including those with “strange hairstyles or who use women’s bands in their hair”.

One Imam who preferred not to be named said the move followed a noticeable increase in the popularity of leg-wear known as “tayyihni” – most commonly seen in low-slung jeans with a crotch reaching down to the knees to partially or fully expose the wearer’s undergarments – as well as “haircuts unsuitable for a Muslim at prayer,” in probable reference to the widespread “kadash” Afro hairstyle.

“There has been cooperation between Imams and the police and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in order to detain these violators during prayer,” the Imam said.
If I understand things correctly, the Muttawa makes sure that people attend prayers (arresting those who keep their shops open during prayer time, for example,) and then they arrest those who wear clothing that it unsuitable for prayer. Which means that they enforce a dress code for the entire country.

They sure keep busy!