Two men were reportedly arrested by law enforcement in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah for organizing a dog beauty contest.
According to The Foreign Desk, U.S. ally “Saudi Arabia forbids the ownership of dogs as pets, viewing the animal as ‘unclean’ and a product of ‘decadent Western culture.’ Similarly, most Muslim scholars view dogs as ritually ‘impure.’”
The notorious mutaween, or morality police, in the Persian Gulf nation, formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is tasked with enforcing the Islamic kingdom’s strict morality rules as dictated by Sharia law.
They are responsible for keeping watch and clamping down on dog owners, notes The Foreign Desk.
Using the hashtag, “most beautiful dog in Jeddah,” the men announced the pageant on social media, encouraging Saudi dog owners to enter their pets in the contest, reports The Foreign Desk.
The report notes:
The best 10 would be recognized, and the top three would receive prizes.
The awards ceremony was scheduled for Wednesday, to coincide with the Eid festival, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, but when news of the event went viral, Saudi authorities stepped in and arrested the organizers.
Jeddah officials declared the event cancelled via social media, adding that the organizers would face legal repercussions.
The Foreign Desk reports:
Ironically, authorities then used the original “most beautiful dog” hashtag to notify people that the event was cancelled, prompting one user to note the “stupidity and ignorance” of fighting over a dog pageant.
In an effort to keep men and women separated, the governor of the Saudi capital Riyadh outlawed the sale of cats and dogs in 2008.
The governor’s move was prompted by claims that “flirtatious young men were using their pets as magnets to lure girls in public places such as malls,” points out The Foreign Desk.
Late last month, the news outlet reported that the strict Saudi mutaween were playing the role of fashion police.
The Foreign Desk mentioned that a morality police crackdown on Saudi men wearing “un-Islamic” attire resulted in the arrest of up to 50 men for “fashion violations” such as donning ripped jeans, Crocs sandals, shorts, necklaces, and sporting Western hair styles.
In April, various news outlets reported that Saudi Arabia was reining in the powers of its feared morality police, prohibiting officers from pursuing suspects or making arrests.
Religious police officers are no longer “allowed to pursue, question, request identification from or arrest suspects,” Reuters reports, citing state-controlled Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
SPA indicates that “members must instead report suspected crimes to the police or drug authorities, who will carry out law enforcement actions.”
It is unclear whether the morality police arrested the two dog contest organizers or if they referred the cases to the regular authorities as it is now allegedly required.
Morality police officers have a poor reputation among segments of the Saudi population given that they are controlled locally and do not have to answer to regular police.
Nevertheless, hardline Saudi clerics assert that the police force is an essential component of enforcing Muslim-majority country’s austere form of Sunni Islam.