Courtesy training for Saudi religious police

Critics skeptical that politeness would make much of a difference

A Saudi newspaper reported that the feared commission for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, known as the mutawwa are being given special training to “deal effectively and pleasantly with the public.” About 200 members have attended the course in “communication skills” and “success strategies” so far. The mutawwa enforce strict standards of behaviour, ensuring that businesses close for the five daily prayers, that women observe the dress code, arresting unrelated men and women who are found together, and checking text messages on teenagers’ cell phones. During a school fire in Mecca in March they reportedly drove back girls who tried to escape without wearing headscarves, and prevented male rescuers from entering the building on the grounds that they would be “mixing” with the opposite sex. Fourteen girls died in the blaze. Amnesty International was skeptical that politeness would make much of a difference in Saudi human rights. “Saudi Arabia’s religious police have an appalling record of brutality and discrimination going far beyond failings with interpersonal skills,” a spokesman said. “Their track record includes making violent and arbitrary arrests, subjecting women in particular to taunts and vicious beatings, and lashing out at people taken into detention.”

Guardian News

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