Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Rebellious Confrontation

Yesterday I had lunch with friends at Hyatt Mall. The muttawa (religious police) were there too. They were looking for vice. And I had my hair uncovered. 

Once I’d been spotted, the command was inevitable, “Excuse me, cover your hair.”

We were all a bit stunned by the ‘excuse me.’ The muttawa are not known for their polite manners. Words like “excuse me,” or “please” are not standard vocabulary for those who ruthlessly seek out moral corruption and degenerate behavior.

(Funny thing really, I’ve never thought of myself as morally degenerate. It’s a lot of attention for just showing a bit of hair. )

I looked around the Food Court. It was largely empty. There was no crowd for me to surreptitiously disappear into, and they were still standing there, a little distance away, just waiting.  I decided compliance was the best alternative, grabbed my headscarf from my handbag and covered up. They left.

(Can I just say here how much I loathe my abaya and my headscarf some days! But that’s another blog.)

This blog isn't just about me. It’s another woman’s story.

She too was stopped by the muttawa in Panorama Mall. She was harassed and yelled at and commanded to leave the Mall. All because she was wearing nail polish. Oh yes, and lipstick.

However, she stood her ground and shouted back. Not only that, she recorded the whole incident as it happened. Undoubtedly, she was incredibly brave to defy the muttawa like this. Women have been imprisoned for far less.

 This is a glimpse into what life is really like here for women. 

And worse still, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.There has been a huge furor about the muttawa’s conduct as a result of this video. It seems like they went one step too far. I wonder if that’s the reason for their unusually polite form of address yesterday.

Like many things in Saudi, I guess I’ll never really know. 


If you're interested in reading more about the incident, this blog entry from a Muslim woman's point of view includes a (disapproving) eyewitness' account and a discussion about how true to Islam muttawas' behaviour may be.

"The way a CPVPV [muttawa] sheikh struts around malls with a fancy cloak on his shoulders and two subordinates flanking him enjoying the atmosphere of fear their entrance causes and sometimes going as far as terrorizing people is not the way I’ve read that the Prophet behaved."

- The Immodesty of Nail Polish (Saudiwoman's Weblog)

No comments:

Post a Comment