RIYADH: The Shoura Council is currently studying a major proposal to merge the religious police, officially known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, into the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
The plan is widely seen as a move to redesign and redefine the role of the religious police, as also to curb its powers further.
“This is not a plan or proposal from the Saudi government; rather, it is a proposal put forward by three members of the Shoura Council,” said Mohammad Al-Khunaizi, a Shoura member, on Tuesday. He said: “The Shoura Council is currently studying the merger proposal, while seeking the opinion of the members on this subject.”
Al-Khunaizi could neither confirm nor deny the fact that the proposal of merger of the commission into the Ministry of Islamic Affairs will go for voting next week. But, a Reuters report said: “The Shoura Council, an influential advisory body to the government, will vote on the proposal to merge the religious police into the Ministry of Islamic affairs, further curbing the force’s authority, next week.”
The report has quoted Atta Al-Thibaiti, a Shoura member, as saying the proposal had overcome initial opposition by the Shoura’s Committee on Islamic and Judicial Affairs.
The religious police, which have had the mandate to implement Islamic laws and better social ethics, patrol public spaces to enforce bans on alcohol, obscenity, abnormal behavior, store closures during prayer times, and the mixing of unrelated men and women. It also imposes strict modesty requirements on women’s dress, as well as on men, especially youngsters chasing women and philandering.