Muttawa Encounters Volume One

As I promised on a previous post, I will share some experiences my friends and I have had with the Saudi religious police officers, better known as the muttawa (read more about them here). Officially the name of the organization these religious police officers work at is CPVPV, short for Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

These are all real situations that have occurred within the last 3 years in Riyadh to friends of mine and some of them I was involved in myself. You can find Muttawa encounters Volume Two here.

My first encounter with the Saudi religious police aka muttawa or Hai’a, was at the Janadriyah heritage festival held once a year on the outskirts of Riyadh. It’s a huge exhibition area that displays saudi culture from all over the country, and this was women’s only day. While we were exiting the festival area, there was a muttawa squad at the gate checking that all exiting females had covered their hair. For what reason-I have no clue since only women were around! So I was wearing a hat like this (that day was hot and women were selling them in every corner)

My hair was covered! But the muttawa insisted I take it off and wrap my scarf around my hair. I asked him, so you want me to expose my hair then? He didn’t know what to answer, he just repeated like a robot: you must cover you hair!I still insisted it is covered but after my friends got somewhat uncomfortable I decided to obey him. So I removed my hat let my hair fall open and wrapped the scarf around my head, which actually left more hair visible. Make your own conclusions to what his real agenda was.

In Granada mall, it’s school vacation time 10 am and we are shopping in a group of three girls. There’s a lot of teenaged Saudi boys and girls around. We spot the muttawa, they are in a group of 3 muttawas accompanied by two policemen. That means trouble, it means they can arrest us!

At the time I didn’t cover my hair and had forgotten to take my “in case of muttawa scarf” with me. So I quickly tried to find a shop to go buy one. Too late, they already had spotted me! They started following me around and into shops (even lingerie shops), shouting cover your hair! I pretended not to hear and kept searching for a scarf to buy. Finally I found one, put it on and they were gone, so I then removed it again. Later we saw four teenage girls running as fast as they could with the same muttawa running and shouting behind them! It was hilarious, the girls hadn’t covered their hair and their abayas were OPEN! Wow how courageous of them. I assume they were about 14 years old. They ran out of the mall into their jeep and weren’t caught.

In Faisaliyah mall: four western girls are having dinner at the family section of the food court which is surrounded by walls and there are no men nearby. Two muttawas come in, the older one is wearing the “Harry Potter” cape making him look more intimidating to the girls. Muttawas immediately head to the girls in the middle of their meal and ask them to cover. They ask why? Answer: Because you are in Saudi-Arabia. The girls feel baffled, why are they being disturbed while eating alone in a quite corner in family section, obviously sitting there for privacy. In their own language they decide to go in the ladies room, not to cover their hair and just wait for them to leave to continue the meal in peace. But muttawa follows them and waits outside the toilet until they come out.

muttawa haia religious police saudi book fair

In Panda: a western couple is grocery shopping. Muttawa comes up to the wife and tells her to cover her hair. The husband gets upset and challenges the muttawa, how dare they speak to his wife in that manner?They have no right to address her or to even glance at her. Muttawa leaves her alone.

In Kingdom mall: A western woman who is Muslim but chooses not to cover her hair and her Saudi husband are shopping. Muttawa approaches the woman: cover your hair! Says to husband: pray that Allah will forgive her! Saudi husband replies: No YOU pray that Allah forgives your behaviour and for her want to wear hijab one day, otherwise leave her alone it’s her decision!! Muttawa leaves the scene.

Also in Kingdom mall: western man runs into his female colleague from work outside a shop, they start chatting. Muttawa approaches them, asks them are they married. They ignore him. Muttawa starts beating the man on his legs with his stick. Western man looks at muttawa in a bad way and continues talking to colleague. Muttawa whips the western man even harder with his stick. Western man grabs the stick from the muttawa, throws it over the edge down to the first floor and continues conversation. Muttawa leaves the scene to retrieve his stick and does not return.

In Hayat mall: Western man is shopping, it’s prayer time and the shops close. Two muttawas approach him and ask why he is not praying. Man replies because he isn’t Muslim. Muttawas then drag him forcefully into the shopping malls mosque, and make him stand in the back the whole time watching the other men pray.When the prayer is finished they let him go.

A young western woman  goes to get take-out food with two male colleagues after work. They drive to the shwarma place and the men go out to get the food. Usually she would wait in the car but this time she decides to step out. Her hair is not covered and she has left her handbag in the car. Muttawa drives by, spots them and starts questioning them, how they know each other and why they are together. She would have been fine if she had only took the bag with her to show her ID and say she is just walking around. The muttawas don’t speak english and she doesn’t know what’s going on. So they are all shoved in the muttawa GMC and taken to the police station. The woman is interrogated and made to strip to her underwear in front of the female staff who are all laughing at her and demanding she strip naked. Nobody speaks english and she still doesn’t know what is going to happen. She is given clothing to change to, and only then she realizes that they are putting her in jail! So she ends up spending two nights in jail, until her sponsor comes and gets her out. It’s Ramadan so there’s obligatory fasting for everyone. There are many other women in the large prison cell crammed together lying on dirty floors or benches. Some women are crying, some even have small children with them. Read the full story here: Expat’s Tale from a Saudi Jail

entrance to janadriyah festival on women’s only day

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  • Kawthar BMay 24, 2010 - 4:35 pm

    They want people to convert and be muslims by treating them in this matter… this is not the way to get ppl to adhere to islam.

    Its appauling how they made the non muslim man stand at the back of the mosque and watch everyone pray…. is this the way to get him to convert to islam? I think not!

    I applaud the husband of the western wife and the western guy that threw down the stick! WAY TO GO!ReplyCancel

  • SoileMay 24, 2010 - 4:43 pm

    OMG! Unbelievable stories, but I know they’re true, I’ve had encounters like that with them too! I liked the one where the guy threw the stick to another floor :-)ReplyCancel

  • hasnamarjaMay 24, 2010 - 7:13 pm

    Rules are rules and one accept them .
    (maassa maan tavalla) I guess you knew about these rules before going to work in KSA.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 26, 2012 - 10:04 pm

      Dragging people forcefully in the mosque is not one of the rules. Sorry, this is plain silly. Do you think this man will consider Islam after this experience with mutawwas? I don’t think so.

      I am a Muslim convert and no, no one had to drag me to the mosque.ReplyCancel

  • oldie goldieMay 24, 2010 - 9:02 pm

    pretty interesting :DReplyCancel

  • QusayMay 24, 2010 - 11:35 pm

    I think it would be interesting if they had a show like “cops” but it would be Saudi and called “mutawas” LOL

    Thanks for sharing that :)ReplyCancel

  • qladaMay 25, 2010 - 4:03 am

    That is pretty funny, when muttawa does not follow their own logic. I have been asked to cover my face one time, which made me laugh.
    I asked him: ” Am I so ugly that you are afraid of me?”, that idiot was smiling weirdly and left. They can not enforce that, or can they?ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 26, 2012 - 10:04 pm

      Covering face is purely traditional and is not compulsory in Islam, so no he cannot enforce that.ReplyCancel

  • أبو سنانMay 25, 2010 - 4:03 am

    Reminds me of the story my wife and Sister in Law used to tell of being followed by a muttawa from the mall one day. He followed them all of the way home and they thought for sure they were in trouble.

    Turns out they didnt do anything wrong, he just wanted to give his phone number to them. lolReplyCancel

  • LaylahMay 26, 2010 - 5:01 am

    @ Soile, actually you know that guy! He is married to our friend ;)

    AbuSinan welcome to my blog!
    The muttawa that followed your wife and sister-inlaw didnt have the guts to ask in public? Or did he want to wait until the women had mahram present?

    yes I agree it would be a great show, the Muttawas!Camera crew would follow them in the GMCs around Riyadh :D
    They could have the same theme song too but altered a little bit: “bad boys, bad girls, what you gonna do, what you gonna do when the muttawa come for you..” lolReplyCancel

  • SoileMay 26, 2010 - 4:54 pm

    Oh really! That’s good!ReplyCancel

  • negligentvendorsMay 27, 2010 - 12:14 pm

    Hi Laylah, I found a link to your blog from Bedu.

    I just wanted to ask…

    On an earlier post of yours you wrote:

    “They try to continue their lives exactly like it was back home inside those walls. But in the end, they are only hurting themselves. I feel sorry for these people who continue to have no respect for the culture they live in…”

    Can you tell me how this is any different than what you are doing yourself? I don’t agree with everything the mutawa do here in KSA but surely their behavior is common knowledge by now. Honestly did your husband not warn you about them before you moved here? And if he did then why the shock?

    It seems a bit strange that you want to continue living as you did in the West(unconvering) here in Saudi when obviously it will only bring you trouble. If you weren’t willing to embrace this culture then why did you move to Saudi?

    I see you as being guilty of not respecting the culture which is what you previously accused others of doing. Of course a lot of what occurs here is not Islam but it IS their culture here whether we like it or not. And the problems we see here can only be changed by the native people themselves, Saudis. They don’t need Westerners to fight their battles for them. And I suspect many Westerners like to push the envelope here a bit…a sort of rebel rousing itch if you will. :)

    So, I’m sorry…although I don’t agree with how the mutawa force people to cover and otherwise harm them, I also don’t agree with Westerners who don’t respect the culture they live in. And I think refusing to cover is an example of that. You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to like it. You just have to accept that is how it is here and get on with it.

    And until the Saudi people themselves take a stand against the mutawa and other facets of the government here that is corrupt, you refusing to follow the line does little to no good. You only harm yourself.

    It would seem more sensible to wait for the changes to occur first. So for example, instead of putting yourself in akward situations where you know you stand a good chance of causing trouble for yourself, i.e. wearing a cowboy hat when the majority of women DO NOT…

    Wait until that sort of fashion and the like IS more common here, then join in. Until then, you can’t complain about the unnecessary attention you essentially bring to yourself.

    I like the idea of your blue abayah to express your individuality because this is a relatively subtle form of that but anything other than that is irresponsible as this society obviously isn’t ready for it.

    You are in their country remember? :)ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 26, 2012 - 10:11 pm

      Yeah and this is why he wanted to see Laylah’s hair LOL She said with WAS with women. Keep in mind that every Muslim covers hair differently (I am not talking about cowboy hats now.) Abaya and shayla is NOT an Islamic attire, it is a tradition. Look at other Muslimahs how they wear, they are STILL being respectful.

      Also, mutawwas are NOT representatives of pure Islam. They also have their traditions mixed in there and they make an excuse as if it is a religious reason. Hamdullilah there are no mutawwas where I live. I am also married to someone from GCC country and live with him.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahMay 27, 2010 - 8:30 pm

    Wow!!Sister you got me all wrong..let me try explain.
    Now where on earth did you get the impression that I dont cover?!?
    I DO at all times ok, and I do respect the culture. So half of what you just wrote doesnt apply to me.
    Wearing a cowboy hat once at Janadriya festival has nothing to do with this..
    First of all-inside is ladies only. I wouldnt go around Riyadh wearing a cowboy hat :D Did you really think Im that stupid and ignorant?And you have to come and tell me its better to wait for the likes to come to fashion?looool!!!!
    Second, That time there were many, many other women that chose to wear that kind cowboy hat. Please do not ask me why and what it has to do with their cultural festival, maybe they just thought it was funny, we certainly did. Women were selling them at every corner, so we decided to buy ones too.Ok is that cleared up now?
    I rather blend in than stand out, my abaya is my silent “statement”, not meant to cause a scene.
    Then you say maybe my husband should have told me about the culture (or muttawa) before I came. FIY I came here long before I met my husband and I had heard about the muttawa. Just because I dont agree with what they are doing, it doesnt mean I dont respect the culture! How many saudis like or respect the muttawa, really???I dont know many. So according to you they dont respect their own culture. And so what if I was shocked in the beginning with some things?
    What matters is how I processed things and moved on to accepting that things are different.

    And I certainly am not doing what the westerners I was talking about are doing. They dont leave their compounds at all, they dont have saudi friends, they dislike EVERYTHING about the culture, they havent made any effort to know locals, or find about Islam.
    Well Im not like that. And just because I married a saudi doesnt mean I didnt have respect for saudis and their culture before that. I had saudi friends before I met him. For me coming here was actually partly because I wanted to know more about the culture, not just because of money..I think it would be a waiste not to get to kow locals. For me it is more an opportunity to learn new things from a culture so very different from my own.

    “You are in their country remember?”Whats that supposed to mean?!
    Yes I am aware of that, thanks for reminding me :) Blondes sometimes ARE quite forgetful!

    I hope this cleared things out and you will keep visitng :)ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 26, 2012 - 10:12 pm

      Dearest Laylah,

      You don’t come off as a disrespectful person at all. THEY are disrespectful because somehow they think they are more superior and smarter than you. This behavior does not stem from Islam, it stems from something else (and you know from where :-)

      ReplyCancel

  • NomadseekerJuly 12, 2010 - 9:32 pm

    Very interesting insight into Saudi life.ReplyCancel

  • Proud MuslimahDecember 20, 2010 - 11:05 pm

    Its absolutely amazing how the muttawa claim to be upholding religious teachings in the community but some of the things they do are downright unIslamic. For them to demand for you to cover your hair in an all-female setting is wrong in itself but then to make you expose it to THEM in order to cover it!!! Im honestly left baffled at some of the things these hypocrites can do and yet still say they uphold Islamic teachings.

    How absolutely offensive.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMay 4, 2011 - 7:07 pm

    Hello!
    This is Jack Shepard, an adapted name just for the sake of commenting.
    I have read some of your writings and have actually foud some of them to me quite motivating specially this one against Mutawas.
    I have to say that one day change is going to come it is very very slow but it is coming.
    And as far as the current behaviour of Saudis is concerned, I have got just some words DUMB, STUPID, IDIOT ETC. Now this does not mean any disrespect to any one around because that is the truth. Correct it is that there are Saudis out there, with whom if you interact you won’t even believe that they are Saudis. I mean there are Saudis who actually know how to respect a non-Saudi who actually use their Brain; like your husband. When you see Saudis like those you actually get practically stunned, they are what I call civilised-Saudis or simply Humans. True that they are very few to find, but they exist and that is the only reason the kingdom is still alive.ReplyCancel

  • ZafiroAugust 22, 2011 - 4:38 am

    Hello Laylah, I love your blog :) it’s so perfect please don’t change nothing sweety! thanks for your time to share with us everything… well actually this article scares me :( :S as I am living here. I don’t like to go out ’cause I am afraid of that people :( . I wear the scarf everywhere I go even it’s so unconfortable for me, but I do it cz I respect their country. Laylah, I don’t like what “negligentvendors” told u in her comment, and for my sake, please don’t give explanations to the people that take your ideas and thought wrong. Leave them. :) take care! by: ZafiroReplyCancel

  • AnonymousAugust 22, 2011 - 4:46 am

    Hello! I love your blog :) please don’t change nothing. I feel that I know you even we don’t know each other :) . It’s so perfec. Layla, please do not answer to the people that understand you wrong, they don’t deserve it. I didn’t like what “negligenvendors” user worte to you, don’t give explanations because the people that understand you know that you are good. I decde to post my comment to tell you that this is the article that more scares me :( :S as I am living here.. I am afraid to go out because of that muttawa :S I wear the scarf everywhere I go even it’s unconfortable for me and I feel my circulation stops wearing this thing but I do it cz I respect their rules :S … c u , ZafiReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 23, 2011 - 3:43 am

    Hi there Zafiro and thank you for your kind words it was very sweet of you!!! It really made me feel good. Like you see what negligentvendors wrote, it was mostly written because of certain prejudices and stereotypes that people have of westerners married to saudis and saudi in general. the commenter jumped to conclusions.

    As for you, I wish you wouldnt feel so scared. Its not a nice feeling to live here and feel that way really, Im afraid your life will get very stressful from that!And the muttawa are not worth stressing yourself about. trust me there is nothing to be scarf about especially if you cover all the time, you need not worry!!If you go to Diirah souq they sell some pretty comfortable scarves that you sort of pull over your head, and the are more comfortable and easy for a beginner to wear :)
    I saw that you are Columbian :) I visited your country last year and I loved it!!I hope to read your comments at Blue abaya again!

    salams to you habibti and take care!!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 23, 2011 - 3:44 am

    sorry for the typo I meant theres nothing to be “scared about” lolReplyCancel

  • AngelAugust 29, 2011 - 1:24 am

    LMAO Laylah everytime I read your posts on Muttawa makes me laugh at how silly they are. i was good giggle to myself at the end. Oh i can’t till I am in Saudi i would like to be in the mall and witness some of these crazy stunts they pull so i can have a good laugh with my friends. However i do feel sorry for that poor woman. I find it disgraceful what they did and if I ever knew anyone in that situation I would advise them to take them to court on basic human rights violations they should have provided her with a translator. How backward they think and how disgraceful their actions were.ReplyCancel

  • SandySeptember 12, 2011 - 8:15 pm

    I respect this culture more than this culture respects me as a woman. I don’t respect any culture when it is denying someone their human rights. And I don’t care whose country I’m in. So I don’t cover my hair and people will just have to get over that. It’s hot, uncomfortable and sometimes gives me a headache. And the only reason they try to make us do it is becuase some men are obsessed with controlling women. So too bad for them. I’ve also found if you yell back at mutawwa they are more likely to back down. Though of course with caution because they sometimes get out of hand or violent.ReplyCancel

  • asultan1September 24, 2011 - 11:38 am

    Thank you for sharing this. You must know your rights and your obligations as a muslim, because if you do the Muttawa cannot force you to do anything. As a born-muslim Saudi, I have never had such an encounter because I argue logically. They end up getting bored of my babbles and leaving me alone, hehe.

    Regards,
    AliaReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 26, 2011 - 1:06 pm

    Sandy-you’re brave to shout back at them,especially if you’re going around uncovered but I’m curious now, what do you say in response to them?ReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 26, 2011 - 1:08 pm

    Hi Alia and thanks for stopping by!
    I would love to hear one of your discussion with a muttawa :: perhaps you could write a post about it!
    My conversation with them is limited to:”
    cover your face”
    “why?”
    “cover your face!”
    “lower your gaze”
    “cover your face” etc etcReplyCancel

  • LaylahSeptember 26, 2011 - 1:09 pm

    Angel-yes that was a very disrespectful bunch of so called police officers that harassed her!ReplyCancel

  • AmirahOctober 5, 2011 - 4:04 pm

    wow you are so brave to shout at them back!! i dislike the mutaween with passion. once i was in the mall and my mum was reaching up to get something from the top shelf and her niqab slipped down to show her nose, and they shouted “cover your face” and they guy at the till was like “god damn them!” gosh i wish there were no such things as the mutaween :( but haha those girls running around with their abayas open! courageous girls! respect to them!ReplyCancel

  • SandyOctober 5, 2011 - 7:05 pm

    Brave/foolish -some of both. Well…
    “Cover your hair”
    “No”
    and I just keep on walking.

    Once I had my hair covered (bad hair day) and they yelled at the lady next to me:
    “Cover your hair” – In Arabic
    and I pulled off my scarf and yelled,
    “No”
    And the policeman walking with him who was translating Cover your hair into English as he swooped through the souk, turned around, looked at me and started laughiing and kept on going. I think he hated working with the guy.

    I’ve actually seen them only a handful of times. I did once get followed by a flock of them after my failure to comply. But I got out of the mall before they did- and I guess they decided it wasn’t worth chasing me through the parking lot.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 8, 2011 - 1:20 am

    Sandy-LOL thats a very effective, to the point conversation.
    I would suggest you try at least once “lower your gaze” and see the reaction, its priceless.
    Are you in Riyadh?ReplyCancel

  • JocelynDecember 5, 2011 - 7:17 am

    Great blog. My husband just moved to Al Khobar for work. He will be there for 1 year. I am so nervous that he will unconsciously offend someone or get himself into trouble. I’ll definitely be back to hear more of your stories.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 9, 2011 - 1:24 pm

    Alanna said: Hi! I was living in Saudi before, now soon I’m coming back since I just love the way I was living there. I can say it was one of the best places I never meet. I do love their culture (some things) like the way an old women sing in the morning because someone in their family going to married. I have the chance to studied there and share a lot of thing with Saudi Girls-Women and some ones wants to run away from their life there others just love the way it is.

    I’m not going to Riyadh I always had been in Al Khobar and I believe this make life easy for expas.
    Can someone tell me if this staring apply in Al Khobar? Some of my old friends say that the Muttawa start to stop every uncover women because of this.
    I remember I do not have to cover my hair or face and I even get into the singles area to buy some ice cream or coffee to go away.
    I when to do a lot of things alone in local markets and places since I love to meet the local people and their culture. To me always is about learn and learn.
    I will come back to your block soon!
    Cheers!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 9, 2011 - 10:10 pm

    Jocelyn-thanks for the comment and welcome to my blog! I’m pretty sure your husband will be fine, muttawa harass women 90% of the time. If he wears shorts they might say something otherwise don’t worry!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahDecember 9, 2011 - 10:12 pm

    Alanna-Hi there and thanks for the comment!
    I’m not sure about the situation in Khobar, but from what I understand muttawa have been more active all around the Kingdom recently.ReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani LOL)March 1, 2012 - 11:18 pm

    I really want to see some things in KSA but my husband had a really bad muttawa encounter in Riyadh and refuses to go. “Only Hajj” even if my bestfriend is married there and wants me to come to her walimah:(

    My husband was praying travellers prayers as he was there for a conference and when he refused to pray out of his right to pray travellers along with the rest of his Muslim collegues, thet were hit and yelled at, and their driver arrested.

    Also, one of my neighbor’s, her daughter did Hajj at the age of 4, mashaAllah. They are shia though, so when the little girl prayed her shia way, the religious police came and started to kick her in the head. WTH?! As a Sunni, this makes me SOOOOOOOOOOOO mad. Kicking a little girl doing Hajj in the head and beating her? I’ve seen her scar where they fractured her skull. That is wrong, I don’t care if shiaism is full of bidas or not. That’s not how dawah is given and how children are treated in Islam. Disgusting.

    I still want to go. Alas.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 2, 2012 - 2:10 am

      Omani Princess- Sorry to hear that :( So muttawa are deterring even Muslims frm coming to/liking Saudi. How sad and frustrating!
      I didn’t understand what was the so called offense your husband did?

      The story of the girl is absolutely horrifying! When did this happen? Was it male or female muttawa? Did they make a complaint? What happened?ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 26, 2012 - 10:17 pm

      I really hope that mutawwa who kicked a child went to jail where he belongs. Those are the people giving bad name to Islam.ReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani LOL)March 1, 2012 - 11:24 pm

    And my parents, both non- Muslims in KSa (LOL):

    The muttawa (to my father): “Tell your wife to cover!”

    My father: “You tell her. She doesn’t listen to me.”

    Muttawa: “.” (and went away).ReplyCancel

  • Omani Princess (not Omani LOL)March 7, 2012 - 12:06 pm

    My husband had already prayed. In travellers prayers the dhuhr and asr are combined. They were trying to herd him into a Mosque to pray the full settled fard salat for asr. Same with the rest of their party. THEY COULD HAVE just gone along with the culture, but my husband and his friends are against that. They believe the going-along-with-it is what causes all the wrongs in Islam to begin with it.

    It was female mutawaa for the little girl:( I don’t think they really dared complain. They’re shia. They don’t have much right there.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahMarch 7, 2012 - 7:30 pm

      Omani Princess-Ok, now I get it! Well all I can say is ood for him for standing up to them because of everyone just follows like cattle change is never gonna happen.

      Yes this female muttawa is notorious inside the haram. I’ve heard horror stories and even saw one!
      A crippled woman was praying, she didnt stand up, only was on her knees the whole time. This pair of female muttawa approached her DURING prayer (why are they not praying???) and started talking to her, scolding her, the woman continued and ignored. They wouldn’t let it go they started to beat her!!I the end she stood up in an awkward forward leaning position which looked extremely painful, there was something wrong with her spine!
      I was disgusted, it was my first visit to the haram too!

      Shia are just as much Muslims as Sunni that is absolutely horrific how they treated her.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousMay 15, 2012 - 1:20 pm

    do you know (perhaps not) saudi men are gay? they love good looking young & smooth men like syrian and lebanese, even filipino, pakistani & palestinians. Then by day pretend to be a real hunk. Publish this because its truthful.ReplyCancel

  • Shireen BaigMay 27, 2012 - 6:52 am

    ''There is no compulsion in religion''… I guess they need to go back to the Quran and Sunnah.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJune 23, 2012 - 10:19 am

    Laylah, why don’t you just go back to Scandinavia if you hate our country and its customs so much? Say “hi” to your neighbour Anders Breivik while you’re there. This is an Islamic state and you know very well that the Mutawa have a job to do. You don’t have to like it but this is a country that was founded upon the pillars of our religion and most of the Saudi men and women like it that way. Many of our Muslim guests even came here to escape persecution in the West in countries like France and Germany. I lived in Europe for years and I saw this with my own eyes. I want my sisters from all over the world to feel free to follow their religion here without people like you making a mockery of Islam with your childish “blue abaya” nonsense and your idiotic claim that wearing a hat is equivalent to wearing hijab.

    There is no “compulsion in religion” in so far as you are not forced to become Muslim but just like every other country in the world you are forced to obey its laws – the same as in Finland or the rest of Europe. It so happens that most of our laws especially in the social sphere are derived from our religion so covering up (by men and women) is the law here. For far too long, we’ve let things go here allowing women to walk around with their head uncovered. How must our sisters, our wives and mothers feel when they go out with their husbands and families? They are covering themselves and there are women, Western or otherwise, who walk around with their hair done up, plastered with makeup and oused in perfume drawing attention to themselves.

    It amazes me that you say you are married to one our citizens yet you just don’t seem to understand our society. Just look at this particular blog enty as an example. You went to an event on a ladies’ only day and what do you do? You take photographs and post them on the internet! You’re not getting this, are you? The way you speak on this forum about other non-Western nationalities invites resentment and is completely hypocritical when considering all your criticisms of Saudi Arabia and its people. Take a look in the mirror.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 26, 2012 - 10:26 pm

      I am a Muslim from USA and some things I read are NOT Islamic at all. Incidents like this: “A crippled woman was praying, she didnt stand up, only was on her knees the whole time. This pair of female muttawa approached her DURING prayer (why are they not praying???) and started talking to her, scolding her, the woman continued and ignored. They wouldn’t let it go they started to beat her!!I the end she stood up in an awkward forward leaning position which looked extremely painful, there was something wrong with her spine! I was disgusted, it was my first visit to the haram too!”

      OR

      “Also, one of my neighbor’s, her daughter did Hajj at the age of 4, mashaAllah. They are shia though, so when the little girl prayed her shia way, the religious police came and started to kick her in the head. WTH?! As a Sunni, this makes me SOOOOOOOOOOOO mad. Kicking a little girl doing Hajj in the head and beating her? I’ve seen her scar where they fractured her skull.”

      Those are the comments above mine. If they did it to your family, you would not be upset? Now, do you consider this treatment as Islamic? Beating someone’s child or treating badly a crippled person? I really DOUBT this is a Saudi tradition to do that, and I also doubt very much this is an Islamic behavior. I am sure you know that if you want rahma from Allah, you have to extend rahma to others. Oh and don’t bother East vs. West stuff and “you are an evil Westerner” Allah will judge us all and no, you will not get special treatment for being a certain ethnicity. Only in piety, right? At the end of days (Day of Judgement), no one will care where you came from and what your nationality was.

      Sorry, I had to get this off my chest.

      Salam.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 27, 2012 - 7:40 pm

      I see that in your view ONLY Western women go all done up with perfume and makeup. And ONLY Western women behave badly. Actually, by your generalizations you are also offending Western Muslims. Or maybe in your view in order to be a good Muslim you have to be an Arab from a certain country? Hmmm… I wonder. So only Arab women from Saudi Arabia are on their best behavior 100% at all times? I really doubt that.

      Also, what does Breivik have to do with this? As if you are stating Laylah related to him or something. Are you related to Bin Laden? I would assume not.

      It is clear you hate Westerners (whether they are Muslim or not).ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJuly 2, 2012 - 10:40 pm

    mmmmm…..hair…..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 25, 2012 - 7:56 am

    Hi Laylah! Thought I would add to your collection of horror stories :) I was walking after sunset with my kids who were toddlers at that time from the bookstore on Sari Street in Jeddah to home when a jeep full of muttawa passed by and shouted at me to go home. I used to cover my face so people assume I’m timid. When I ignored and kept walking they quickly parked in front of me, jumped out and made a scene. When a good crowd had gathered I pulled my face cover off calmly and started to remove my scarf. That silenced them and one of them came and quietly told me not to be angry and to just go. I cried out of frustration all the way home. I don’t live there anymore, and even though I made a ton of wonderful friends, and met the nicest, kindest people ever over there, I will never return. Being treated like I am unfit to think for myself was slowly killing my spirit and I knew it. ~~~~FatemaReplyCancel

    • LaylahNovember 25, 2012 - 7:52 pm

      Hi Fatema-thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousNovember 27, 2012 - 8:36 am

      I am a Muslim convert and if I thought this what Islam is I would never be a Muslim and I would not consider Islam to be my religion. Luckily I know it is not the case. What mutawwas do is unislamic.ReplyCancel

  • LauraSeptember 12, 2013 - 12:31 pm

    Great blog, love it! I’m British and my husband is going to be offered a job in Ta’if. Regardless if we decide to go or not, I enjoy reading your blog posts, they are informative & entertaining.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaSeptember 17, 2013 - 12:59 am

      Hello Laura! Sorry for the late response! I have been really slacking in this department apologies for that.Thanks for the comment I really appreciate it :)
      Taif is a very lovely place and you’re close to Jeddah too!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca ByfieldOctober 10, 2013 - 5:00 am

    A friend’s 14 year old daughter was being driven home by her driver after visiting a friend one evening. She did not have her abaya on in the car, and had the interior light on trying to check her phone to call her mother. The Muttawa drove past at that exact moment, forced the car off the road and arrested both the driver and the underage girl. They were taken to a police station where they were held for several hours. The girl was not allowed to call her parents and was terrorised by the Muttawa. The driver was interrogated and beaten. During that interrogation, it came out that the girls parents worked for one of the princes. How quickly things changed from that moment on. They were both released and sent on their way with profuse apologies for the ‘misunderstanding’. It was the one reason I never let me kids go anywhere with the driver alone in all our years living in the Kingdom. We weren’t lucky enough to have a member of the royal family in our corner, and I really didn’t want my daughters disappearing without a trace…ReplyCancel

  • VeronikaJune 9, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    I don’t prefer to cover my hair anywhere. Once muttawa stoped my husband and in sooooo gently way they told him, that i should not have 2 colours on my Abaya! :D … but actually they dont used to stop me, anyway if they see me. Once they showed me from far by their hands to cover my hair… Thanks god i dont have bad experience with them! :)ReplyCancel

  • […] Saudi religious police are read more here and find out some of my previous encounters with them here and […]ReplyCancel

  • ahmed aliSeptember 2, 2014 - 12:37 am

    perhaps u people who hate Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice should come to india where if someone eve teses woman and molests them(by criminals) .the gards and police are most timid and weak .so there are flaws every where but u will continue to highlight saudia arabia.
    perhaps if u prove the point by statics will be usefullReplyCancel

  • […] Check out my previous post on muttawa encounters here. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Read volume 1 of muttawa encounters here. […]ReplyCancel

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