Taming Riyadh’s religious police

Saudi Arabia looks to the future by curbing the mutawaeen, writes Najah Al-Osaimi

The World Today
3 minute READ

Najah Al-Osaimi

Saudi journalist and researcher in international relations and diplomacy

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers has approved a law that restricts the powers of the religious institution responsible for protecting Islamic morality in the country, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

The move against the so-called religious police has confounded assumptions that the conservatives would gain more power with the ascent of King Salman to the throne.

Over the course of 30 years, conservative religious officers known as mutawaeen, have acquired power to control the conduct of people in public and great influence over legislation and even some political decisions in Saudi Arabia.

They could arrest and investigate violators of Islamic values, or obstruct laws in the name of religious and cultural traditions, but without a clear code defining the extent of their powers. Under the new rules, they will be limited to promoting Islamic morality and reporting violators to the official police.

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