Saudi Arabia strips religious police of arresting power

[Culture ★★★]


(P1) Saudi Arabia has stripped its religious forces of their powers to arrest, urging them to act “kindly and gently” in enforcing Islamic rules.

(P2) Under changes approved by the Saudi cabinet on Wednesday, religious officers will no longer be allowed to detain people and instead must report violators to police or drug squad officers, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

(P3) Officers of the Haia force, also known as the Mutawa, must “carry out the duties of encouraging virtue and forbidding vice by advising kindly and gently” under the new rules, it reported.

(P4) “Neither the heads nor members of the Haia are to stop or arrest or chase people or ask for their IDs or follow them – that is considered the jurisdiction of the police or the drug unit,” the regulations say.

Subject of controversy

(P5) Saudi Arabia’s religious police enforce the country’s interpretation of Islamic law including segregation of the sexes, ensuring that women cover themselves from head-to-toe when in public.

(P6) Formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, its members also patrol shops to make sure they are shuttered during time prayers.

(P7) Prior to the new regulations, officers were allowed to arrest people using alcohol or drugs and committing certain other offenses including witchcraft.

(P8) Their tactics have regularly been the subject of controversy, most recently in February when members were arrested for allegedly assaulting a young woman outside a Riyadh shopping mall, local media said at the time.

(P9) In 2013, religious policemen were arrested after their patrol car crashed into another vehicle during a chase that left two men dead.

WORDS: 266


VOCABULARY: stripped, detain, virtue, interpretation, segregation, shuttered, witchcraft, allegedly


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you think the religious police should be allowed to detain and arrest people? Why or why not?
  3. Are there any controversial issues in your country (or others if you’re from KSA)? If so, explain.
  4. Do you believe in witchcraft? Why or why not?
  5. If you are not from KSA, do you have religious police in your country? If so, can they arrest and detain people?


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • Mutawa (P3)
  • Carry out (P3)
  • Haia (P4)
  • Islamic law (P5)
  • Subject of controversy  (P8)

Cambly Practice Button

Image source: by “unknown

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s