A year after curbing its power, the Saudi religious police is deemed redundant by many

Sheikh Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi
Updated 01 April 2017
0

A year after curbing its power, the Saudi religious police is deemed redundant by many

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia marks the first anniversary of curbs placed on the religious police, people are taking to social media in an unprecedented way to criticize their previous behavior, stating they are better off without them.
This week Saudi-based social media users celebrated the anniversary of the government’s decision to limit the authority of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice or the religious police with a mixture of sarcasm, humor and serious discussion about the enforcement role of the religious establishment.
The commission’s former president of the Makkah branch, Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi, is optimistic about Saudi society.
“Many people anticipated that society would plunge into moral corruption if the religious police didn’t resume its work,” Al-Ghamdi told Arab News.
“This is not only an exaggeration, but a questioning of Saudi society’s religion and ethics. The reality proves the opposite.”
Social medial user Amro bin Talal was more direct in his evaluation of society without the moral police.
“They filled the world with their screams that illegitimate children will fill the roads and that the streets will be ruled by the drug mafias... none of that happened,” he tweeted.
Another Twitter user simply wrote: “Happy anniversary.”
Hammad Al-Shammari wrote: “One year of tranquility and peace after years of tragedy, action and domination.”
The Cabinet a year ago passed regulations banning the religious police from questioning, asking for identification, pursuing, arresting or detaining anyone suspected of a crime. Those responsibilities now fall on police and anti-narcotics officers.
“The religious police hasn’t been banned but reorganized. Only its work is controlled,” Saudi blogger Hussein bin Bani told Arab News.
“The aftermath of this decision proved that Saudi society is living many illusions. The religious police is a prime example.”
Al-Ghamdi said: “A year has passed since the government’s new organization of the religious police’s work, and things in the country are proceeding in a regular manner. Morals and virtue are preserved, and all disciplinary apparatuses are in place and performing their duties in the best way.”
Many Saudis and expatriates once thought the religious police was the advocate of virtue and served as society’s immune system from moral corruption.
But “it’s absolutely not the case,” said Bin Bani. “Their absence is intangible, and contrary to some expectations we’re doing fine. We’re still the same people, living in the same society and possessing the same ethics, as our ethics stem from within. They exist in each and every one of us, and don’t need government agencies to enhance them.” He said even if the religious police was removed altogether, nothing would change.
Some people suggest establishing a substitute body to the religious police, such as an ethical police, which Bin Bani says is utterly naive and does not even reflect a society that lives in the 21st century. “The ‘making’ of ethics isn’t the government’s responsibility” he said.
Bin Bani added that Saudis are innately good, and “we don’t need the extremist version of religion.”
Saudi society has witnessed a wave of entertainment in recent months, including shows, concerts and other events.
Al-Ghamdi said the religious police’s current role of supporting the Islamic Affairs Ministry, without prejudicing people’s freedoms or judging their intentions in a way that distorts the image of religion, is correct.
He urged people to be vigilant of extremist preachers, hard-liners and radicals who limit Islam to the domination, repression and guardianship of society.
“They don’t hesitate to inflame naive people’s emotions and guide them against the homeland by exploiting pseudo-slogans to further their agendas,” Al-Ghamdi said.
However, some people miss the religious police’s presence on the streets, while others say a return should come with conditions.
“Some members must first be rehabilitated, and those with criminal records should be totally expelled. Only then can we welcome them back,” said activist and social critic Waleed Al-Dhafeeri, who has 1.34 million followers on Twitter.


Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

Updated 21 June 2018
0

Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

  • A fan named Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time.
  • Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s World Cup dreams were shattered after Uruguay beat the Green Falcons 1-0 in the second of the three group-stage matches. Most Saudi fans in Jeddah were much happier with the team’s performance in game two, following the resounding 5-0 defeat by host nation Russia in the opening match on June 14, but still bitterly disappointed by the loss, which means they cannot qualify for the knockout stages.

Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time. “Although we lost, the performance was much better than the first game with Russia. I hope we win our next match,” he said.

Nasrah, who watched the game with her two sons, said: “I was really disappointed because we played good today and nothing less than a win should have been acceptable. I am also disappointed to see the looks on my boys faces when the game ended as they were hoping for a win.”

Khalid Al-Raghbi said at least it had been a good match to watch. “We played a bit better today,” he added. “I wish we would have won but at least we performed better than our last match against Russia.”

Before the game, Ibrahim Al-Turki had been optimistic about Saudi Arabia’s chances. “We didn’t expect today’s result. I was thinking that Saudi would win by two goals, and Uruguay would score one,” he said.

The result was especially disappointing given the close result and the number of chances the Saudis had to score, said Badr, who added: “I don’t know what to tell you because we are deeply disappointed. At least if we lost with a big defeat I would say we deserved it. We had the potential but we could not score.”

Shadi Al-Ghamdi said he wished the national team’s much improved performance in their second game had been more evident in their first. “I am very proud of the players, I thought they played very well. I just wish they had played like this against Russia," he said.

Safah was less complimentary and said that the Saudi players had let their fans down, adding: “They seemed scared whenever they attempted to score any goals.”

Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25. It will be the final game in the competition for both sides, with only pride to play for, as they battle it out to see who will finish third in the group and who will be left in bottom spot.