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Saudi Arabia strips religious police of arresting power

GDN Online Desk

The Mutawaa or Saudi Arabia's religious forces forces have been stripped of their powers to arrest, urging them to act "kindly and gently" in enforcing Islamic rules.

Under changes approved by the  cabinet, religious officers will no longer be allowed to detain people and instead must report violators to police or drug squad officers.

Officers of the Haia force, also known as the Mutawaa, must "carry out the duties of encouraging virtue and forbidding vice by advising kindly and gently" under the new rules, it reported.

"Neither the heads nor members of the Haia are to stop or arrest or chase people or ask for their IDs or follow them – that is considered the jurisdiction of the police or the drug unit," the regulations say.

Saudi Arabia's religious police enforce the country's interpretation of Islamic law including segregation of the sexes, ensuring that women cover themselves from head-to-toe when in public.

Formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, its members also patrol shops to make sure they are shuttered during time prayers.

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