Saudi Arabia has issued new guidelines to define and curtail the powers of the country’s religious police, instructing its members to be “gentle and humane” in dealing with the public. The force, which is tasked with ensuring people observe the kingdom’s ultraconservative Islamic codes, has been criticised at times for its intrusive, even deadly tactics. The members of the religious police, known as Mutawas, are not allowed to chase people down the street or demand to see a person’s ID or other documents. The directives also say the Mutawas are not to entrap or arrest people, specifying that this is exclusively the jurisdiction of the police and drug enforcement officials. The semiautonomous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, as the force of roughly 5,000 is also known, patrols parks, streets and malls, combats drug-use, bars unrelated men and women from mingling in public and ensures stores close for daily prayers. It is also one of several government agencies that monitor online activity in the kingdom. Often, Mutawas have stopped men and women driving in cars or walking in public places, demanding to see proof they are married or directly related. The new directives appear to be… Read full this story
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