I think ^(link) therefore I err

Sunday, March 05, 2006

An "Army of Davids" in Saudi Arabia?

This story in the Arab News (ht Religious Policeman) sure sounds like it.
Members of the Commission for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue were attacked in Riyahd.
We cannot simply ignore a recent incident that occurred in Al-Suwaidi center in Riyadh last week where members of the commission were attacked. Every citizen should notice this event. Weakening of the commission is dangerous under the deteriorating social conditions we are currently experiencing; the lack of morality and loss of principles are shattering our traditions.

The title of the item is "Kind Advice Makes a Difference" and it suggests that the commission spread it's message kindly. Apparently the Commission has been pushing the envelope. In the same paper is an article about the Riyadh book fair.
This year’s Riyadh Book Fair was eventful — mostly unwelcome events, though. Somehow, the fundamentalists found in it an opportunity to flex their muscles and prove a point. They wanted all to know that no matter how far we progress on the road of women and minority rights, speech and press freedoms, democracy and all, they are still in a strong position of influence. But they went too far, this time.

According to press reports, members and volunteers of the Commission for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue were in force everywhere. In the family days, where single men are not allowed, they were the exception. Carrying sticks and wielding religious authority, they went around telling women to cover their faces, wear “abayas” (black cloak) over their heads in one piece, rather than two — head scarf and body cover. In some instances, they told salesmen in bookstands not to smile or joke when talking to women. A man holding the hand of his half-blind wife was told not to show affection in public.
Never having lived in an oppressed environment, I usually think of people in these countries as just "following the rules". There may be a rebel or two, or 50, but they get thrown in jail, or stoned or some other horrible thing. Either these little protests (such as the attack and the news item) have always been going on or people are feeling more inclined to complain about things like the overzealousness of the Commission for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue. If you know - let me know. Is this normal or is this Army of Davids under less free governments new and spreading? I'll search for more info myself.