May 26, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 2978

Saudi Princess to Religious Police: Loosen Your Grip on the Population and Fight Government Corruption

May 26, 2010
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 2978

In her column in the government daily Al-Madina, Saudi Princess Basma bint Saud attacked the Saudi religious police, accusing it of instituting religious terrorism. She claimed that it operates savagely against ordinary civilians instead of dealing with the corruption within the government. The column provoked reactions in Saudi Arabia, and was widely discussed on Internet forums.

Princess Basma is a social activist and a prominent supporter of women's issues in Saudi Arabia. Recently, in an extraordinary step, Basma was photographed with her face unveiled for an interview with Al-Madina. Also, counter to the custom among Saudi princesses, she married a man who is not a member of the royal family

Following is the translation of her column:[1]

"I Have Searched the Annals of History... And I Have Not Found a Trace of the Term 'Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice'

"I have searched the annals of history, the biography of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, and I have not found a trace of the term 'Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice' [the official name of the Saudi religious police] except for in the Koran, as a general [appeal] to all people, who are said to have been 'commanded to be virtuous and forbidden to commit vice.' This is a general term, in which God commands all the Muslims…

"What is the meaning of 'virtue' in the Koran and in the Arabic language? This word indicates gentleness, kindness, and conversation, according to the various uses that are well-known to everyone from Islamic prophetic literature, which commands and asks for reciprocal operation.

As for forbidding vice, this means using virtues to ward off any vice, meaning, anything that is condemned by the mind or by morals, or anything forbidden by the Koran…

"In the entire scope of the Islamic world, from east to west, from north to south, there is no government authority that has been established in order to act in this area [i.e. supervision of morals and enforcing norms]. All Islamic governments have left this area in the hands of the education [system] and religious culture. As the Prophet Muhammad said [according to a Hadith]: 'I have been sent to make your behavior exemplary,' not to coerce behavior. [As Koran 16:125 says]: 'And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.' There is no order to arrest [people] while committing crimes in plain sight, by violent beatings, scandals and fatal car accidents…"

"There Are Still People Who Commit Religious Terror... Many of Them Have Not Studied the Correct Islamic Law In Depth"

"God created the world with a word, by saying 'be' and the world was. Despite all the divine statements, prophetic clarifications, the words of the Koran, the verses and evidence, and threats of the most severe divine punishments, there are still people who commit religious terror. [They] ignore what has happened in Afghanistan with the Taliban movement, and they overlook the severe repercussions manifested by the severe punishments and catastrophic results [that will ensue from God]. They continue to be oppressive, while many of them have not studied the correct Islamic law in depth, nor the biography of the Prophet Muhammad or the instructions of the Koran and the Sunna. We see among [the religious police] young members who, with good intentions, want to mend everything that was corrupted by international media and globalization. [However, they do this by] using oppressive means, which do not show sound knowledge or organization, or even a level-headed manner of conduct."

"Do They Not Know That Allah Sees You Even If You Do Not See Him? Did We Not Learn That It Is Up To the Master of the Universe to Mend and Straighten the Path?"

"[The religious police consider] every woman guilty until proven otherwise. Any legitimate mingling between religious scholars and their students, even at conferences, carries a sexual meaning. Can they enforce morals and good and righteous intentions based on this state of mind? Do they not know that evil, temptation, and error, happen in the home of the villain, in his inner sanctum? Anyone who wants to commit an act of abomination would not do so in broad daylight, in restaurants, on the roads – they would hide behind high walls. Even if they could reach lairs of sin, do they not know that Allah sees you even if you do not see Him? Did we not learn that it is up to the Master of the Universe to mend and straighten the path? Are the historical stories of men and women who have lived in sin not enough? Have we not been told the stories of the Koran that educate us that Allah chooses whom to lead on the path of righteousness whom to misguide… How far we are from all these lofty and eternal things…"

"The Religious Police Must Learn that Corruption Must Be Fought From the Inside"

"The religious police must learn that corruption must be fought from the inside, and that its members face a broader and more comprehensive mission among our official circles. They should help our righteous government uproot the neglect, the theft, and the embezzlement of public funds. [They should] assist it in establishing justice, helping the judges, and mending the hostility [in society], rather than some of them wasting their time walking [mindlessly] and in savage persecution of women and men, which was commanded neither by God nor the Prophet.

"Oh, religious police, how far are we from our Islam. How far are we from the middle path, from the prophetic commandments and divine justice, that Muhammad was sent with, so the world would be ruled according to honest morals, and so we look at the world respectfully, and with a will to enter Islam, not by drawing away from anything that is connected to Islam, as a result of what the religious police is doing on the ground.

"I call upon the head of the religious police to mend what this generation and the local and international media have spoiled, regarding our awful situation due to the policy of some people who have understood Islam and its implementation in a twisted manner and have begun to do whatever they want, while utterly disregarding our principles and reputation in the world…"


[1] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), April 30, 2010

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