Religious police incident at cultural festival to be investigated

April 19, 2013
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The Governor of Riyadh has ordered the launch of a formal investigation into an incident that involved servicemen from the Saudi National Guard and an employee from the Public Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police.

According to reports in Saudi Arabia, an employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police, was removed from the UAE pavilion at Riyadh’s annual Janadriya cultural festival after he tried to stop a folkloric show performed by young Emiratis, claiming that it was “un-Islamic”.

A short video clip circulated on the internet showed servicemen from the National Guard escorting the man out of the stand while excited spectators could be heard cheering.

Reports initially claimed that the man was upset over an appearance by UAE singer Aryam during which she greeted her fans and sang for them.

However, a UAE official at the stand reportedly said that Aryam merely hailed her supporters for a few seconds and that the incident with the Commission employee occurred long after she was gone.

The committee to probe the incident at the annual Janadriya festival will be chaired by the vice governor of Riyadh and will include representatives from the National Guard, the Commission, the public prosecution and the Riyadh police, the governor Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz said.

The first meeting by the ad-hoc committee was held on Saturday and will be followed by others until a report over the events that unfolded on Friday evening is drafted.

The National Guard said that the man who wanted to end the UAE show acted on his own and that he later apologised for his behaviour.

“I want to make it clear that there is no rift between the components of the institutions,” Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz Al Moqbal, the spokesperson for the festival, said, referring to reports that the National Guard and the Commission were at odds. “The employee was not tasked with specific responsibilities in the UAE stand and he was an administrator stationed elsewhere. He had no right to interfere in what was happening at the stand and if he did not like what he saw, he had to go to his superiors and report it. He had no right to use his position to act the way he wanted. It is obvious that he wanted to cause chaos,” he said.

The public standoff between the two powerful entities is very rare in the kingdom, but microblogs and social networks offered several versions and interpretations of the incident, fuelling wild rumours and speculation, and necessitating the formation of a committee to “set the record straight”.

A report from the Saudi capital claimed that three UAE male members of the folkloric troupe were asked to leave the stand as they were “too handsome to remain there”.

According to the report, hardliners claimed the presence of the men could cause issues among female visitors and asked the officials at the UAE stand to repatriate them.

Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3xvTRBVv24

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/religious-police-incident-to-be-investigated-1.1170328

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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