Saudi Arabia: A New Recipe – The Religious Police and Tourism

450 employees from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPC) or otherwise known as the Muttawa (religious police) have been chosen to be trained by the Ministry of Tourism.  The objective of this initiative is to present a gentle and understanding Muttawa who can be helpful to foreign tourists in the Kingdom.

They are to help tourists without prejudice but within the parameters of Sharia law.  Now that is going to be interesting to see exactly how this works out.  For example, female tourists who now visit Maidan Saleh may tour the historic tombs and town of Al Ula without the need to wear an abaya or cover their head.  How will the Muttawa react to these actions which to them may be a circumvention of tradition?  Will they be accepting or try to instill their rule claiming it is under Sharia law?  Additionally, groups of mixed gender are known to travel to Maidan Saleh and with no objections.  Would this also change?

It’s interesting that the Al Bawaba article cites that the 450 employees have been in five months of training but does not expand on what their training has entailed.

This new relationship between the CPVCP and Ministry of Tourism plans to have Muttawa cooperating with the Ministry in all provinces of the Kingdom.

What do YOU think?  In fairness, how do you see the Muttawa’s role to the Ministry of Tourism as a benefit?   Do you think the Muttawa’s exposure to foreign tourists will soften them and make them more understanding of different cultures and customs?


10 Responses

  1. Interesting. I hope it will soften the Muttawa rather than driving away tourists. Was the tourism dept. trying to give a bad impression of KSA? Maybe they aren’t all as bad as the impression I have of them. What is your impression of them after living there, Carol? Am I thinking of them unfairly? Maybe judging the lot of them by a few bad apples?

  2. I do not think the Ministry of Tourism was trying to give a bad impression of KSA but the opposite…wanting to promote the beauty, treasures and history within the Kingdom.

    However, I do not have a positive impression of the Muttawa based on how they rounded up people (men) for prayers as if they could not get their on their own and the way they dealt with women, whether Saudi or foreign such as covering up hair (even if already wearing a hijab but felt that they could still see too much hair) or telling a woman to remove nail polish….it makes me feel that the Muttawa were too focused on the opposite sex and anything which could be considered even remotely sexual.

    I wrote a few years ago about my husband’s own experience in a mosque. He goes to the mosque for prayer and after the prayer is told his thobe is too long and his beard too short!

    Are you sorry you asked my opinion now, Suzanne? (smile)

  3. these policemen look so mean and cruel in the pics, carol. i think they should teach them how to smile. this is so important if they are going to welcome tourists to saudi arabia.

  4. Yes, I’m glad I asked. 🙂 Well, I was wondering if they wanted to give a good impression why they would ask the Muttawa to help tourists. Couldn’t they find more likeable people? Hopefully they will do a good job, but if they are all about policing people, I don’t see how that would make a good impression on KSA. Time will tell.

  5. Saudi Arabia, invites women tourists:
    Sun, Sand and Suffering! in the most female unfriendly country on the planet Earth!

    The Saudi muttawas will be glowering and awaiting you at the airport to give you that true Saudi welcome by putting women in their rightful place; under the foot of men!
    Enjoy being suffocated in a polyester bag, while the temperatures sore far above 100”. Experience true gender apartheid and being a non-entity. Enjoy the excitement of being constantly harassed by the Saudi sex-obsessed men. Improve your condition by running from the mutts while being slapped on your sinful ankles.
    After this enriching experience of what a truly woman hating society has to offer you will never be happier in your own country, whatever it’s faults.

  6. Aafke, ha! That’s about exactly what I would think KSA would want to avoid and why I wondered what they were thinking in desiring the Muttawa to be the welcoming committee and/or tour guides! But maybe their secret ambition is to keep the whole Kingdom pure for Saudis so if they make it bad enough no one else will want to be there.

  7. They shouldn’t be involved with tourists in the first place.

  8. Just speculating now, I wonder if the Kingdom is looking at how to “make over” the Muttawa rather than do away with them completely as that could put conservatists in an uproar. You’re right, Suzanne…I don’t remember having ever seen a Muttawa smile. I don’t think the Ministry of Tourism is the right place for them.

  9. … because they are so friendly and welcoming. Devils hiding behind long beards.

  10. Carol, they are all going to be send to special education camps!
    – First trimester, exercising the cheek muscles. Good manners towards women and personal grooming
    – Second trimester, advanced lifting of the corners of the mouth, Good manners towards women and personal grooming
    -Third trimester, acting lessons to make a smile seem genuine, Good manners towards women and cutting beards to a civilized size

    Of course only a very small number, those with flexible minds, will be able to graduate.
    Can’t wait to see the graduation class of 2013!

    Every evening, educational showings of ZZ Top

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