Saudi Arabia: The Religious Police and the Riyadh Bookfair.

The Riyadh book fair is a rare public occasion in Saudi; This year more than 700 publishing houses took part in the book fair with more than 300,000 books.

Every year more visitors attend the fair. It attracts more and more families too, there is a children’s corner, with seating and many books to read.
Besides bookseller the Haya, (religious police) not only zealously patrol the fair and impound books they deem haram and advise women to cover more, they also typically have a stand of their own. In this stand they display ”forbidden items”.

At last years bookfair there were rumors that the fair would be segregated. Luckily that did not turn out to be true. Actually it seems that more and more women are attending the book fair.
This year’s fair was unique in being supposed to be relatively free from censorship for the first time.
While the religious police were quite demure last year, at this year’s book fair things were different. This year they came to the fair in numbers! Five hundred muttawas started a row, objecting to women reporters without face veil, slamming poetry books and trying to start rows with the visitors on the grounds that they were engaging in ‘unethical’ practices.

Security forces had to interfere and arrested around 100 ”protesters”. The fair had to be closed early.

One protestor issued this comment to the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Abdul Aziz Khoja:
”We appreciate your efforts, but the presence of women and the display of books that contain secular and destructive ideas are against Islam. These books contain carnal poetry and apostate concepts.”

An amateur video of the ”protestors” being kicked out by security

American Bedu has not been feeling well and greatly appreciates and thanks Aafke of Clouddragon for this contribution.


50 Responses

  1. What amazes me is that people are still shocked when this same thing happens every year. I heard about it before I got to Riyadh in 2008, it happened when I was there, and it’s happened again every year since.

  2. The Haya is a government tool. If King Abdullah is serious about reform, the first thing he should have done is to dismiss Haya.

    Baring demonstrators from expressing themselves publicly is indicative of the weakness of the system. The regime may silence the angry public temporarily not but not forever.

  3. That’s so pathetic 😦

    Carol, I ask Allaah t’ala Lord of the Throne to heal you.

    Aafke, thank you! And thanks so much for being such a good friend to Carol and loving her like you do!

  4. Feel better Carol!

  5. Carol,
    Heal and feel better



  6. I think the Haya would enjoy a book burning party!

    I hope you feel better Carol.

  7. Women and books, the source of all evil… *shake head*

  8. Saudi Arabia has an expanding population and cannot provide jobs for its people. Does anyone think the problem is caused by too little sexual segregation or too much free thinking?

  9. Hope you’re feeling better soon Carol!

    I’m not sure which day this protest was but when I was there the muttawas were stationed outside the main entrances shouting at women to cover. I guess they didnt let them in anymore.
    But what I understood is most of them were not from CPVPV aka Haia they were “freelancing” muttawas lol.

    If they were official Haia, wouldnt they have police officers with them, and how could they have kicked them out like that?
    I didnt see any of their vehicles either.

  10. “carnal poetry” is that poetry about pork?

  11. Wishing you good health, Carol. Be well …

    Looking forward to your new post.

  12. Carol,

    You are in my prayers for a speedy recovery. It is so sweet of Aafke to help you out in your hour of need!

    Harry Guggen
    Seattle, Washington

  13. Jerry, which man could resist the massive porcine allure of The Empress of Blandings?

  14. Carol, sorry you are feeling unwell and I hope this is just a bit of a bump for you that will soon smooth out.

    I certainly encountered muttawa in Jarir Bookstore, El-Khobar but was pleased to see the very large selection of books that I thought might not be available in KSA. They followed me around with my uncovered head but did not say a word thank goodness. What was most distressing to me was that my nieces were not in the least interested in books as they followed me around. No desire to read or discover whatsoever so their schools have done a bang up job on them for sure. 😦

  15. Islam teaches us to acquire knowledge. What better way than through books. It seems the muttawas are uneducated in many aspects of Islam.

    Praying for your speedy recovery Carol. InshAllah

  16. @Aafke,

    how do you italicize and bold and underline the font when posting. I have seen you do that. HELP!!!!


  17. I hope you’re feeling better soon Carol.

  18. I remember attending an exhibition in Riyadh. It was supposed to be women only. A line of mutawwa stood outside the exhibition hall and harassed us if our feet were fully covered! Then they followed us around inside shouting at us to cover our hair. Most unpleasant!

  19. Harry, and who else wants to know, you use HTML code, I will break it up to make it visible

    italics text

    bold text

    Use this knowledge wisely and appropriately

  20. Ok, that did’t work
    Before the word/sentence you put: em
    in between pointy brackets:
    To en the Italics writing you put: /em
    inbetween pointy brackets:

    Use this knowledge wisely and appropriately

  21. Interesting, pointy brackets disappear,
    Again: <
    and you end with the same one pointing the other direction

  22. Thanks, Aafke ….

  23. bold

  24. Got it! Now to make my reckless inappropriate way through the blogosphere!

  25. Brilliant!

  26. hmmm? 😦

  27. bold

  28. bold

  29. LOL!

  30. I’m thinking the blogoshere may be safe from my inappropriateness.

  31. comes last
    then you put the text of your choice
    aan het eind

    And the same for strong /strong

  32. damn the < doesn't show up!

  33. now it does…

  34. Sandy, good link, you’re much more quite as clever as I am.

  35. hee, didn’t work!

  36. “Jerry, which man could resist the massive porcine allure of The Empress of Blandings?”

    I for one cannot!

  37. Carol, you are in my thoughts.

  38. my friend told me that they set a special gate for women, i seriously fail to see the point!? i think people are taking this idea of segregation to the extreme! makes me wonder what’s next…

  39. The muttawa are a bunch of butts.

  40. Thanks to each and every one of you for the good wishes. I go to the hospital for some updated tests tomorrow and will know the results next week. I think my body has become a walking barometer…when the weather is nice and sunny I feel better! (smile)

    Now to the subject of the Riyadh book fair and Muttawa, it is correct that ‘official’ Muttawa will be in a group of two, usually accompanied by a police officer. The Muttawa will wear his short thobe covered by a brown bisht.

    Too bad the muttawa could not have been encouraging women (and others) to go into the book fair instead of their actions driving some away…

  41. Due to the presence of books depicting God

    See this link

  42. Come on American Bedu, let’s be fair, at least on the bookfair!

    First of All, Thank you for the post.

    Secondly, those who have visited the bookfair and saw what happens knows that those people were volunteering people, not the “Haya”.

    The “Haya” and the MOCI are both governmental org. and were working in sync during the bookfair.

  43. […] in Saudi Arabia. Not only did the Religious police harass the visitors and started a huge row at this year’s Riyadh Book fair, but Al-Jouf literary club was actually firebombed last year! It was already damaged the year […]

  44. لا تكذبين بشأن هذا أيتها الجاسوسه

    رجال الدين فقط كانوا ينصحون الناس عن نوعية الكتب التي لا تتفق مع الدين الإسلامي

    ومنع وجودها في المعرض

    وبالنسبه للنساء حمايتهم من التحرش والإعتداء

    وإذا كنتم تريدون أن تعيثوا في الأرض فساداً

    فأفعلوها في بلادكم وليس بلاد المسلمين

    تكذبون بشأن الإصلاح

    المرأه عندكم كاللعبه بين أيديكم

    مضحكون جداً

  45. Im sorry people about the previous comment. and im sorry im gonna have to respond to it in arabic

    اخي العزيز/اختي العزيزة
    اخت كارول مسلمة. والهدف من هذه المدونة هو تقريب وجهات النظر بين المسلمين والغير مسلمين وحتى المسلمين انفسهم في امريكا. اخت كارول نقلت بعض ما جاء في الاخبار بخصوص موضوع معرض الكتاب وانا من الناس الذن حضروا المعرض وشهدوا كل ما حصل. رجال الدين كان مقصدهم نصيحة الناس للابتعاد عن بعض الكتب. ،وكان مقصدهم نصيحة النساء للحشمة. لكن للأسف اخطؤوا في الاسلوب. النصيحة لا تكون بالصياح على الناس وتكوين حواجز بشرية والمنع الاجباري من شراء بعض الكتب. ولهذا جاء تصريح هيئة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر في اليوم التالي بعدم شرعية ما حصل من الاخوان هداهم الله والاخبار بأنهم لا ينتمون إلى الهيئة.
    عموما. من حقك ان تعبر عن رأيك بأي طريقة تراها مناسبة. واسأل الله العظيم ان يثيبك على ما تبذل من جهد ووقت في خدمة الاسلام والمسلمين ولو عن طريق الانترنت. لكن يا اخي العزيز. احب ان اوضح لك مرة اخرى ان الاخت كارول مسلمة. وهي في صفنا. جزاها الله خيرا على ما تبذل. واحب ان ادعوك الى استخدام اسلوب لين لبق في التعليقات. قال الله تعالى:” ولو كنت فظا غليظ القلب لانفضوا من حولك.” لذلك اخي الحبيب، حاول استخدام اسلوب راقي ومتسامح في الحوار حتى تحبب الناس في الدين الاسلامي وتعطي انطباعا رائعا على عظمه وعظم اخلاقه وتعاليمه. اليس هذا هو السبب الرئيسي لكتابتك هنا؟
    اسأل الله العظيم لي ولك ولكارول التوفيق والسداد وأن يدلنا لطريق الخير ويعيننا عليه وأن يجمعنا جميعا في الجنة، آمين

  46. […] Previous years one could expect the Riyadh book fair to be segregated and proliferated with the religious police.  The book fair would be surrounded by some controversy due to disagreements on some of the books presented. […]

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