Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 09:52 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 09:52 | SYDNEY

Saudi Arabia: It's raining cats, dogs and wives



6 August 2008 17:54

The guardians of Saudi Arabia’s conservative moral code are employees of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, but are better known as the mutawwa. Most expatriates come across the mutawwa as they prevent the entry of unaccompanied youth into shopping malls or call on ‘uncovered’ women to don a headscarf. To Westerners, their role does not appear much fun, and their stern countenance is rather amusingly nerdy. Such unthinking adherence to cultural mores, however, can lead to tragedy in the hands of fanatics, as it did when a fire broke out in a girls school dormitory in 2002.

Recently, the mutawwa have again been making headlines for somewhat less serious reasons. First, their own moral superiority has come into question with the accusation that one member of the organization was over budget in the wife department, when he was caught with six, rather than four. Then in Riyadh, the local mutawwa have followed the lead of their compatriots in Jeddah and Mecca by banning the sale of cats and dogs because men allegedly use pets to flirt with women. While people in Australia will find it hard to relate to the first of these stories, I’m sure that anyone who has spent an evening or weekend in Sydney’s Centennial Park or Hawthorne canal in Leichhardt may actually agree with the logic of the Riyadh mutawwa regarding the second.

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