Our close ally, Saudi Arabia, is again showing that it is as extreme as countries like Iran in its application of Sharia law and Islamic practices. Ramadan has triggered a crackdown on clothing deemed “unIslamic” ranging from ripped jeans, Crocs shoes, shorts, necklaces and Western hair styles. Up to 50 men have been arrested off the streets by the infamous Saudi “Mutaween,” or the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
Mecca governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal ordered police to crackdown to enforce the extreme Islamic values in the Kingdom. Saudi officials bemoaned what most civilized people would deem a simple expression of individuality. Citizens were denounced for wearing “bizarre hairstyles, chains that are hung on the chest and arms, hair ties, shorts and immodest clothes.”
Saudi Arabia’s strict “Mutaween,” or religious police, also referred to as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice or CPVPV, is responsible for enforcing the laws of Wahhabism, the extreme religious branch of Sunni Islam that Saudi Arabia practices.
Despite continuing to deny basic liberties, including free speech, due process, free association, and freedom of religion, the U.S. government still heralds the Kingdom as our closest ally and has actively sought to blunt criticism over connections between the Kingdom and terrorists following the extreme Saudi Wahhabi principles. I do not doubt arguments that the Saudis are helping in the war on terror. I have also met many Saudi intellectuals who long for greater freedoms in the Kingdom. However, the hypocrisy of denouncing Iran for its extremist while ignoring similar practices in Saudi Arabia is glaring. The Kingdom denies the most basic freedoms to religious and political dissidents and continues to block equal status for women and girls. The arrest of people for wearing “Western haircuts” or jeans on one level is clownish and comical but it reflects a broader, chilling regime based on the forced adherence to extreme religious views.