Photo via Saudi Arabia’s religious police

Saudi Arabia’s religious police (mutawa) have been stripped of their authority to prosecute citizens for violating Sharia law, various media report.

The new regulations were enacted by the Saudi government on Tuesday, as a response to local criticism of the way the police force carries out its role of defending Sharia law. In February, several members of the religious police were arrested for allegedly assaulting a young woman outside a Riyadh shopping mall. The incident was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, according to A related incident took place in 2013, when four officers with the religious police were charged with creating a fatal car accident after chasing two brothers who refused to turn down the radio in their car. The officers were later acquitted.

In a statement, the Saudi government described the religious police as “an independent body, which has organizational relations with the prime minister.” The government also suggested that the religious police notify the Anti-Drug Authority of drug related crimes.

“Neither the members nor the heads of the religious police are allowed to arrest and persecute citizens for such crimes,” the government affirmed, “or even to ask suspected people for their IDs. Only the police and the Anti-Drug Authority are allowed to take these measures.”

Although the law restricting the powers of the religious police was approved on Monday, it was not published by the Cabinet until Tuesday. Under the new law, the religious police will be charged with “carrying out the duty of promoting virtue and preventing vice in a gentle and humane way, after the model set in this regard by the Prophet [Muhammad] and his rightful successors.” The religious police will be prohibited from pursuing and arresting suspects, or requesting identification. Suspicious behavior will be reported to regular police and anti-drug units. Islamic social mores, such as banning female driving and completely prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, will continue to be enforced by the religious police.

Courtesy of


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