Saudi Arabia reins in religious police

Is Saudi Arabia’s ruling family at last moving toward liberalization of its draconian Islamic fundamentalism?  There is a very long way to go, but this is an encouraging sign:

The Saudi government issued new regulations for the religious police operating in the state Tuesday, taking away the organization's authority to arrest and persecute citizens for not adhering to Sharia law in their daily lives.

The unprecedented Saudi move came as a result of growing local criticism of the police and the way it performs its role as the defender of Sharia law in the state.

According to a statement explaining the new regulations, the religious police is "an independent body, which has organizational relations with the prime minister."

According to the report, the religious police (aka the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) are now supposed to report drug offenses to the regular police.  Other infractions against sharia are not specified, but if the report is true, they have lost their power of arrest.

The religious police were subject to worldwide revulsion when in 2002 they prevented girls from fleeing a fire in a school in Mecca because they were not properly dressed (in full beekeeper outfits) and 15 of them died

The fact that this move coincides with the drastic fall in oil prices, slashing government revenue, and forcing the kingdom into huge deficits is interesting.  Are the heads of the Saud family preparing for the day when they will no longer be able to buy off the clergy?  Are they planning to disarm the religious police, and thereby head off armed resistance?

One thing to watch is funding for mosque construction and Wahhabi indoctrination overseas.  If that is cut, in order to free up funds to maintain the huge generous welfare state at home, that could be another sign of reform.  It woud also do a lot to turn back the tide of Islamic fundamentalism that has plagued the world.

Is Saudi Arabia’s ruling family at last moving toward liberalization of its draconian Islamic fundamentalism?  There is a very long way to go, but this is an encouraging sign:

The Saudi government issued new regulations for the religious police operating in the state Tuesday, taking away the organization's authority to arrest and persecute citizens for not adhering to Sharia law in their daily lives.

The unprecedented Saudi move came as a result of growing local criticism of the police and the way it performs its role as the defender of Sharia law in the state.

According to a statement explaining the new regulations, the religious police is "an independent body, which has organizational relations with the prime minister."

According to the report, the religious police (aka the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) are now supposed to report drug offenses to the regular police.  Other infractions against sharia are not specified, but if the report is true, they have lost their power of arrest.

The religious police were subject to worldwide revulsion when in 2002 they prevented girls from fleeing a fire in a school in Mecca because they were not properly dressed (in full beekeeper outfits) and 15 of them died

The fact that this move coincides with the drastic fall in oil prices, slashing government revenue, and forcing the kingdom into huge deficits is interesting.  Are the heads of the Saud family preparing for the day when they will no longer be able to buy off the clergy?  Are they planning to disarm the religious police, and thereby head off armed resistance?

One thing to watch is funding for mosque construction and Wahhabi indoctrination overseas.  If that is cut, in order to free up funds to maintain the huge generous welfare state at home, that could be another sign of reform.  It woud also do a lot to turn back the tide of Islamic fundamentalism that has plagued the world.