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Woman pummels Saudi religious policeman 17, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Great news from Saudi Arabia: a woman has attacked a member of Saudi’s religious police, ‘repeatedly’ punching him forcing him to go to hospital. The situation arose after the policeman sauntered through an amusement park looking for people’s nights to ruin non-married couples fraternising, which is – of course – illegal in the Kingdom. He stopped a man and [this] woman but for unknown reasons the man collapsed prompting the woman to give him a good kicking. Houra!

Hat tip: Sultan Al Qasseimi

Saudi King in ‘co-ed’ picture shock! 8, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah appears in a picture with women at a conference. As small as this picture or gesture may seem, this is really quite a progressive statement. Not only does it explicitly go against the Saudi rhetoric of the strict separation of men and women, but the majority of the women are not wearing Niqabs and I can even – sacre bleu! – see a few strands of hair.

This is but the latest example of the elderly King’s clear statements on reform in Saudi Arabia. Not only did he inaugurate the Kingdom’s first co-ed educational institution but he decreed that it be free from the depredations of the religious police. Therefore, on campus, women can drive, do not need to wear headscarves and can mingle freely with the opposite sex. When challenged by a senior cleric on this, he responded immediately by sacking him. Another bold move.

The questions that is now on everybodys’ lips is what till happen after Abdullah is no longer King. Although Prince Sultan the Crown Prince practically returned from the dead, it is unlikely that he would take over for his health is surely still too fragile. Instead, Prince Naif, an arch conservative, was made deputy Crown Prince. He is generally accepted to be the logical successor. Whether he would seek to roll back some of the reforms is the million dollar question.

One last quick note: people often innately assume that ‘it must’ be a case of the Saudi rulers holding back their people who ‘automatically’ want more progressive laws because – well – that’s ‘just’ what people want. Not in Saudi Arabia. Overall, I’d be tempted to say that in fact it is the people who are more conservative than the government and it is the average Saudi who is resistant to change. How the younger generations will change this balance is another interesting question.

Saudi Religious Police brutality 22, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi Jeans, one of the preeminent Saudi Arabian blogs, has a simple, short story recounting the brutal tactics of Saudi’s religious police.

So few days ago in Dammam some members of the religious police somehow got the impression that they could storm a women’s public restroom on the courniche to arrest someone. They went in and moments later emerged dragging a girl who was crying, screaming and begging them to leave her alone. She tried to run away but fell on the ground. The Haya’a men apparently thought it was okay to hit and kick her, so they did that in the street while people were watching, then they carried her and threw her in the back of their jeep.

Is any commentary really needed? All that needs to be pointed out is that this is hardly the first time.

Jerusalem’s chastity squad 25, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Saudi Arabia.
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The ever Angry Arab points to a recent article in an Israeli newspaper describing the growth of Jerusalem’s chastity squad. According to the author, this Jewish group has recently been ‘branching out’ into violent attacks. A divorcee and students suspected of watching licentious films were, allegedly, attacked by the group.

There are undoubted parallels between groups such as this and Saudi’s notorious religious police who frequently (though less in recent years) stop, harass, arrest or even attack people in the streets to assure that modesty and strict religious standards are enforced at all times. However, it must be made clear that Saudi’s religious police are state-sanctioned and an official run arm of the judiciary. Jerusalem’s equivalent – if that is not too an incendiary way to put it – have no such firm background.

Angry Arab’s point in highlighting this article is that such a story would no doubt have got more coverage if it were a Muslim ‘chastity squad’ that was accused of said crimes. Whilst obviously impossible to say, I think there may be more than a grain of truth in this statement. I’d be fascinated to see if any American media picked up on this story too. This analogy is – like the Saudi one – not perfect, but it is an interesting thought nonetheless.