I was leaving a restaurant with friends in Jeddah last October when a member from the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stopped me. He gave me a warning about the T-shirt I was wearing, then he let me go. My T-shirt had the face of Gandhi with a line of text underneath that said: “Give peace a chance.” Clothes with images on them, especially of humans or animals, are apparently a serious offense in the eyes of the morality police.
The Research and Studies Center affiliated with the Commission has recently published a study which concluded that at least 59 percent of Saudi youth engage in “undesirable and forbidden behaviors,” the Saudi edition of al-Hayat reported today. The newspaper continues to explain that wearing cloths with images on them tops the list of such behaviors, followed by wearing necklaces and bracelets. The afro hairdo came a close third.
The study recommended that the government should adopt an official concept of what they described as “foreign behaviors.” Because once such concept is officially adopted, it would be easier for the Commission to crack down on these behaviors. The study, however, did not offer any answers regarding if such obsession with social control would push our country over the cliff of sanity.
UPDATE: The Commission have denied that they have commissioned the study reported by al-Hayat. A spokesman for the Commission told Sabq that they have rejected this study that was conducted by a research center at King Saud University due to scientific errors. “Those who misled public opinion by promoting these numbers and publicizing these inaccurate studies must be held accountable,” he said. He added that the Commission would seek legal against those who published such information and attributed them to the Commission.
UPDATE II: Al-Hayat responds by publishing two photos. The first shows the cover of the study which clearly bears the name of the Research and Studies Center at the Commission. The other photo is a copy of a letter from the Commission’s vice president to academics asking them to review the study.