The religious police in Saudi Arabia, popularly referred to as “mutawa”, have powers that the authorities seek to curb.
Individuals that belong to the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of vice will no longer have the powers to chase or arrest suspects.
They will be required to report observations to security forces personnel.
Accusations have always been raised against the religious police officers that they abuse their powers as they instill strict social behavior.
In the year 2013, four officers were accused that they caused a fatal car accident in their pursuit of two brothers who had refused to lower the radio volume in their car. The court late on acquitted them.
Gentle and humane
The cabinet provided the new law on Monday that will govern the religious police but the official Saudi Press Agency published it on Tuesday.
The officers retain the powers to enforce strict segregation of the sexes, ban women driving, and prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol as well as other social restrictions.
Their mission in the new law has been amended to “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”.
They will also be required to clearly identify themselves, providing their names, posts, jurisdictions and official working hours.
Furthermore, they are not allowed to pursue suspects, ask for identification or arrest them. Their duty will only be to inform the regular police and anti-drug units of suspicious behavior. These will then chose on how to handle the matter.