A businesswoman in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to receive 50 lashes for defending the reputation of her café against what she claims are “lies” by the nation’s morality police that the café had breached ethical standards.
These police checked her café for breaches of morality, and the men claim a few of her employees ran away because they were illegal. But the businesswoman argued and said the police were liars. She was then arrested and found her guilty of “cursing the morality police.” A judge in Jeddah sentenced her to 50 lashes. Though she appealed the conviction, the appeals court in Mecca upheld the sentence.
The morality police’s formal name is The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). Their job is to monitor public behavior according to the Wahhabi School of Sunni Islam. A few “crimes” include homosexuality, fornication, attempts to convert anyone away from Islam, and socializing with unrelated males and females. The police make sure stores abide by the Muslim dietary laws and close at prayer times.
However, the system is filled with controversies. King Abdullah fired Shaikh Aziz Al Humain in January 2012 due to numerous complaints from citizens. Sheik Abdulatif al-Sheikh replaced him and vowed to help improve the woman’s place in society.
“I cannot deny that there were several violations committed by members of the force, some of which happened because of the lack of clear guidelines or understanding,” he said. “So we are planning, God willing, to introduce clear guidelines and mechanisms for the field work of the members of the force.”
Not much changed for women. In February, Saudi women rebelled when the CPVPV passed a law that forbids a woman to attend a doctor’s appointment without a male guardian.
“Islamic law does not permit women to visit their doctors without male guardians. Women are prohibited from exposing body parts to male doctors in Islamic law, especially during childbirth,” said Council of Senior Scholars member Qais al-Mubarek.
In October 2013, Saudi women took to the streets to protest the Saudi law against women drivers. Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan added more international outrage when he said driving harms a woman’s ovaries.
“If a woman drives a car it could have a negative physiological impact,” he said. “Medical studies show that it would automatically affect a woman’s ovaries and that it pushes the pelvis upward. We find that for women who continuously drive cars, their children are born with varying degrees of clinical problems.”