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

Sheikh Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi
Updated 01 April 2017
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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.


Saudi crown prince signs raft of cooperation agreements with China

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signs an agreement between the Kingdom and China in Beijing on Friday. (SPA)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Saudi crown prince signs raft of cooperation agreements with China

  • the crown prince headed the Saudi delegation at the third session of the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee

BEIJING: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday met with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng to discuss ways of further developing relations between the Kingdom and China.

The meeting took place in the grand surroundings of the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital Beijing. After their talks, the crown prince headed the Saudi delegation at the third session of the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee which he co-chaired with Zheng.

Delegates at the meeting discussed moves to strengthen cooperation between the two countries on trade, investment, energy, culture and technology, as well as the coordination of political and security matters. The committee also reviewed plans for greater integration between China’s Belt and Road development strategy and the Saudi Vision 2030 reform program.

After agreeing on the minutes of the meeting, the Saudi royal and Zheng took part in the signing of a range of agreements, memorandums of understanding (MoU), investment projects and bilateral cooperation accords between the Kingdom and China:

The cooperation agreement in maritime transport between the Chinese and Saudi governments, signed by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qassabi and Chinese Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng.

MoU between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and the National Development and Reform Commission in China, signed by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.

MoU between the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Investment to form a working group to facilitate trade, signed by Abdul Rahman Al-Harbi, the Kingdom’s deputy minister of commerce and investment, and Qian Keming, Chinese vice minister of commerce.

Loan agreement between the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the Chinese Ministry of Finance to build and equip three hospitals in Yanbian city in Jilin Province, signed by Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and the Chinese deputy finance minister.

Rehabilitation

Loan agreement between the SFD and Chinese Ministry of Finance to reconstruct and rehabilitate areas affected by earthquakes in Sichuan Province, signed by Al-Jubeir and the Chinese deputy finance minister.

Agreement between the Saudi Ministry of Interior and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to cooperate in fighting cybercrime, signed Nasser Al-Dawood, undersecretary of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, and China’s deputy minister for public security.

MoU between the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia and China’s National Committee for energy to invest in renewable energy, signed by PIF head Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and the committee’s vice chairman.

Minutes of the meeting about cooperating in combating terrorism between the Saudi Presidency of State Security and Chinese Ministry of Public Security, signed by Lt. Gen. Abdullah Al-Qarni, deputy director-general of General Investigation for the Kingdom, and the Chinese minister.

MoU between the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property and the Chinese National Committee for Intellectual Property Rights, signed by Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Swailem, the authority’s executive chairman, and committee chairman Xin Xiangyu.

MoU to participate in investing in renewable energy projects, signed by the chairman of ACWA Power, Mohammed Abunayyan, and president of the Silk Road Fund, Wang Yanzhi.

Cooperation agreement for Saudi Aramco to acquire 9 percent of Chinese project Zhejiang Petrochemical, signed by Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser and Xung Wi, mayor of Zhushan.

Agreement between Saudi Aramco with NORINCO Group and Panjin Sincen to develop a fully integrated refining and petrochemical complex, located in the city of Panjin in China’s Liaoning province, signed by Nasser and Tang Yijun, governor of Liaoning province and chairman of NORINCO.