I haven’t been updating the blog recently with the shenanigans of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (or as I prefer to think of them, the Commission for Lasciviousness and Licentiousness) – mostly because it has been more of the same from them.
Many Saudis have been writing in to the Saudi newspapers about them recently though, generally complaining about them. To be fair, I did read a letter from one fellow who wrote supporting them and pointing out that they were preserving Arab values – although he skipped the question of what is actually Arab and traditional about the abaya which is, after all, Syrian and only been present in the Kingdom for 80 years or so.
There was also a wonderful piece by Abeer Mishkhas, a woman I think, writing from London who both questioned the right of the C-Men to overstep their fatwa whilst at the same time defending the right of the press to ask difficult questions, to, in essence, hold those who overstep their bounds to public scrutiny, for the public good. This was published as Time to Rethink the Role of the Commission in the Arab News. She was answering the comments of another woman, Haya Al-Manie, in Objectivity, Media and Vice Police.
One gentle-person wrote a particularly nice piece of advice for the C-Men, titled Abuse of Authority it was written by Bushra Faisal Al-Sebaei from Okaz. It starts with:
Omar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, said: “May God bless whomever presents me with my shortcomings and flaws.” Another famous proverb says, “Your friend is the one who tells you the truth.” With these as a starting point, we would like to discuss the recent media coverage of three events which provoked a great deal of public interest and comment. The three were the deaths of two men in centers belonging to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and the maid who fell from a building in Jeddah when commission members raided her residence.
The piece goes on to note other efforts of the C-Men, such as:
There was also the incident of a young man in Manfuha who was beaten in public by commission members until his face bled and his clothes were ripped to pieces. After checking the man’s ID, the members apologized, saying it was all a case of mistaken identity.
The article does a wonderful job of eloquently and unemotionally discussing many of the more known troubles involving the Commission, going on then to talk about the Commission’s abuse of its authority (power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely ((Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887)) , finishing with the note:
There are always two aspects which facilitate abuse: The belief by the abusers that they can escape detection and punishment plus the lack of clearly-defined public rights under the power and control of authorities.
However, the news today is that 3 Commission Members to Be Tried for Custodial Death. This is in relation to the retired Border Patrol guy with the 12 kids who died when the C-Men arrested (sorry, detained) him and a young lady as being suspected of being a man and unrelated woman in illicit contact – like, getting into a car in a car-park. I mentioned this when I wrote about the Arab News article, Virtue Commission Member Calls for Fairness From People.
The Arab News notes:
In the first such incident in the Kingdom, three members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice will go on trial on Saturday for their involvement in the death of a Saudi man in their custody at a commission center in Tabuk three weeks ago.
This is one of two cases involving the virtue commission allegedly causing death of a Saudi.
This is well overdue. There are many recorded cases of people being beaten by these evil people (see Refused to attend a court hearing for example) when all these people are permitted to do is simply detain people and pass them over to the police.
There have been calls for reform but this seems to be slow coming. The good news today however is that the Shoura Rejects Proposals to Build More Virtue Centers.
The Shoura Council, Saudi Arabia’s appointed consultative council, voted yesterday on a number of measures related to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The Council struck down a proposal to build more centers and to raise commission members’ wages by 20 percent. The Council approved a proposal to provide field operatives of the commission with radio communication equipment and to give them priority in government training programs.
My last word on this (for a while at least) is that the Shoura also discussed and voted on the proposition that the C-Men should become C-Persons by the addition of women. This was defeated. One of the members of the Shoura (Abdul Rahman Al-Dawood) noted that :
he opposes the idea because of the law requiring women of any age to be escorted by a legal guardian who is a relative by blood or marriage. “By hiring women in the virtue body, a mahram (male guardian) would be necessary as their work sometimes takes them to other far away areas,” he said.