The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (HAIA)

Saudi Arabia has introduced a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (HAIA). This committee is also known as Mutawa or religious police in slang language. The main purpose of this Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (HAIA) is to enforce the Islamic rules and regulations. The police force consists of 3,500 – 4,000 members across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Mutawa police force patrols in streets of Saudi Arabia for implementation of Islamic laws in general public. They ensure the prayer obligation to be performed by all Muslims in Kingdom. In case anyone is found violating Islamic laws, is punished in several ways. This police force is dressed up in a special way with full beard headscarves and loose dress known as ‘agal’. They were equipped with wooden cans to strike miscreants before 2007, they are allowed to detain and shut down businesses offenders.[irp]

Mutawas or Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (HAIA) work under the order of King of Saudi Arabia. During 2012, the head of Mutawa was appointed as a cabinet minister and reported directly to King throughout his reign. The budget of Mutawa is estimated as $ 390 USD million. Such huge budgets show the importance of this police force and concern of King regarding it. It also acts as anti-witch craft unit, the responsibility of which is to ensure stopping any witchcraft activity in Kingdom.[irp]

The main duties of this police force are to ensure prevention of any non-Islamic acts in Saudi Arabia. These acts involve the prohibition of any activity related to homosexual acts, fornication, proselytizing of other religions or prostitution. It also ensures implementation of Islamic laws in regard to common life practices, choice of eatables, and prohibition of wine culture in the country. It also places a restricted ban on production, consumption or dealing of alcoholic stuff in the country. Mutawa or Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (HAIA) strictly prohibits promotion of any other religion in Kingdom. Different punishments have been given in regard to different non-Islamic acts. In this regard, HAIA has launched a website for reporting of any non-Islamic act by common public. This website is accessible to anyone from the general public.[irp]

The Patrolling Mutawa members ensure that the members are not involved in certain activities publicly. These activities involve using any kind of drugs or alcohol, putting a check on “Abaya” of all women outside the houses, or any woman smoking. A man and a woman can’t stay together publicly unless there is a legal relationship between them. It had also put a ban on camera phones in order to prevent any non-permitted picture taking by men of women. Later, the ban was removed in this regard. The punishments range from beating to the humiliation of accused persons publicly. These rules are also applicable to foreigners no matter to which school of thought they belong.[irp]

There are few exceptions to this rule. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and foreign embassies are not included in implementation to Mutawa rules. There are several legal reasons for this exception, other than specified sectors where Mutawa has given free hand to implement shariah according to prescribed rules.