Katie Couric from CBS News stops a Saudi man on the street and asks him if he is a muttawa. I found that really funny. You don’t ask a religious fanatic if he is a religious fanatic. The way that she stood there and with a matter of fact attitude claimed that women are not allowed to go to the open market unescorted. Couldn’t she have asked a Saudi? I’m speculating here but she probably asked some non-Saudi Arab translator (Lebanese or Egyptian), someone who probably doesn’t even live in Riyadh.
To set the record straight, I could right now go alone to that very same market and shop until I drop and no one would say a thing. It just happens that she was probably filming on a weekday night and hence there weren’t that many people of either sex. And the term muttawa is a colloquial term that should not be used by a reporter and especially not to ask someone who might be a muttawa. It comes from the Arabic word mutatwa and it basically means volunteer because men are not paid that much to monitor morality in society. Now in Saudi slang it has negative connotations and is used to refer to someone (man or woman) who is a self-righteous Islamic fundamentalist that goes around correcting people regardless of whether or not they are employed by the PVPV. A true muttawa would call himself a member of Al Hisba which means ‘those who hold people accountable’. And their over the top religious life style is called Eltizam and so the person would refer to himself as multizim.