The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The official Religious Policeman site. 

I occasionally get an email complaining that I am not the official site of the Religious Police in Saudi Arabia. I apologize for my mistake, but point them to the site they are looking for, which is of course this one. However, if you've already clicked on it, you'll realize it's in Arabic. So let me give you a guided tour.

If you take the menu items on the top RHS one-by-one:

The first one from the top is basically a charter and mission statement, all about spreading guidance and good example thru the people, the "preservation of Muslim society", and is as boring as these statements always are.

The next four are equally tedious, a history of the Muttawa since the time of Ibrahim (Abraham), the relevant laws, blah, blah. However it starts to get interesting with the 6th item down, the one with this button:

- because this gives you examples of prohibited items, that shopkeepers must not sell and customers must not buy. Now some of these may be obvious; for example this picture:

- shows good uplifting religious books at the top. Not that I am decrying those, just that we equally would like all that stuff at the bottom, those illustrated magazines like "Woman" magazine with its picture of (yes!) a woman on the front, or listen to those CD's with images of people on the cover. But, you've guessed it, the stuff at the bottom is a no-no for our Muttawa friends.

You might find this next picture a bit more puzzling (go to the site and click on it to see it full-size).

It's a bit of a puzzler, really. What do several replica football shirts, a ladies' handbag with an anchor motif, a T-shirt, and a cushion cover, all have in common? Their really tacky design? Well yes, that's probably true, but it's not the right answer. Still don't see it? Come on people, wake up, work with me on this. The common feature is that they all contain or depict a cross. Yes, even the anchor contains a cross. And the cross is the symbol of Jesus Christ, although we of course call him the Prophet Isa, which really messes up the title if you want to put on that Lloyd-Webber musical over here, just as well we don't have any theatres.

So there you go. No peoples' faces, no crosses, no Valentine hearts for that matter. At other times they've featured Barbie Dolls, Harry Potter books, you start to get the picture. Just to see whether you've been paying attention, here's a Competition. What's the problem with the objects in the third picture? Answer in the "Comments", please. First Prize is a week in Qassim, Second Prize is two weeks in Qassim.

Item 7 is the in-house magazine, but there are no competitions, and certainly no pictures of women, or men, so you may want to give that a miss.

Let's skip on to item 11, or 3rd from the bottom. This is where you get to denounce someone. Now you may feel a bit squeamish about this, but denouncing people is a time-honored tradition, dating back all the way to Judas Iscariot. It also happened in 17th Century New England (remember "The Crucible"?), Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and McCarthy USA. It's gone a bit out of fashion as of late, but in Saudi Arabia, nothing goes out of fashion. So, we've had a few laughs up to this point, but now it's time to become responsible citizens, step up to the plate, and turn in a sinner.

So who's going to be our sinner? Well, I think we'll find him here. No, not little Ahmad, he's a good lad really, just led astray, I'm glad we got him back home. No, I mean the interviewer, the one whose phone went off at the end..."We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year". He's probably already been reported by thousands of irate Saudi TV viewers, but one more complaint won't be wasted.

Here's the form. I've added some words in red to show you what you enter where.

Box 1 is for your name. You can of course be anonymous if you wish, or you may want to add someone else's name. Saeed Al Ghamdi is the Saudi equivalent of John Smith. The cursor will appear at the right of the box but don't worry, it still works.

Box 2 is the place where the transgression took place. It's a drop-down box - Makkah, Madinah, Riyadh, Jeddah etc. Let's assume it happened in Riyadh, so select the 3rd item.

Box 3 is your email address. If you supply your own, you might get a nice "thank you" from the Muttawa.

Box 4 is for you to indicate the category of sin. This is for their benefit, so that they can sort and redirect these messages internally. You see, some Muttawa specialize in kissing, some in Barbie Dolls, some in booze. Actually the categories are not too helpful. Some are obvious like "not attending prayers"; if your colleague or neighbor doesn't go 5 times a day (including dawn) to the nearest mosque or prayer room, then that's good enough reason to finger him. But what about "Western Habits"? What on earth is that supposed to mean? Does that mean kissing and holding hands (except men / men)? Does it mean whistling? It may mean retaining your own nasal fluids rather than gobbing noisily and colorfully onto the sidewalk. Or it could mean things like democracy, human rights, due process, religious tolerance and sex equality. It's all very confusing. Best to select the "other" item at the very bottom of the list.

The big box at the bottom is where you make the actual allegation. You can write in English; they may not be able to write Shakespeare but they'll be able to read what you write if it's simple. So here goes. "The said interviewer is in possession of a ringtone that celebrates the idolatrous so-called birthday of the so-called Messiah who is in reality just the Prophet Isa, and also celebrates the polytheistic and bacchanalian celebrations enjoyed by unbelievers at the end of their non-lunar and pagan calender year". That should do it.

If you want to clear any fields, use the LH button, otherwise click the RH button and it's gone, now you can feel suitably pious and self-satisfied.

That was fun, wasn't it? If you want to do some more, feel free. The more messages going into their system, the happier they'll be, because they do relish good honest hard work.

If you don't know any Saudi citizens to denounce, here is where you can find a list of names, they are bound to have done something wrong.

If you're a history nut, and want to replicate betrayals from times gone by, put in an old-time or "retro" one. Something like "Thru the paper-thin walls of my worker's apartment I heard my neighbour, Anna Mikhaelevna Golytsin, of Ulytsa Krasnaya 22-4, describe our beloved Comrade Stalin as "a fat Georgian bastard who should keep his greasy hands off young girls' bodies"". Or even the more eerily evil "The Schumann Family at Wilhelmstrasse 16 are sheltering a Jewish family in their attic".

If you want to send something that's a bit more fun, there's nothing the Muttawa like more, than to get a ribald message in the street slang of the Arab homosexual underworld. The site to pick up some suitable phrases - and before giving it to you I will warn you that it is very explicit and some may find it offensive - is here. The gobbledygook words are in Arabic that your browser can't process. Use instead the transliterated words i.e. use the phrases in english letters. When they are read out they will sound like the original Arabic, and the Muttawa will roll about in helpless laughter.

So that's the official Religious Police site, and that's enough fun for one day. I may not be blogging for the next few days. The temperance movement in England used to have a phrase, "Drink is the curse of the working man"; well in my case, "Work is the curse of the blogging man". I hope to be back soon.

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