Muttawa Raid

Ok I took a break and I learned something about myself. I’m a polygamist, I’ve married this blog over the father of my children and now I’m attached to it and cannot stay away too long from my spoiled second husband, let alone two months. If I try, I just miss it more. I knew it all along but I had to give it a try.

Now that’s out of the way, I have to tell you what I was up to last night. My very dear friend Tine has finished her time here in Saudi and is leaving soon. Unfortunately, being cooped up in expat compounds; she has never had a chance to see muttawas in action. These lions of Saudi morality are a staple mark of life here so I couldn’t let her leave without the experience. That’s why we went on a muttawa safari. We headed to their natural habitat, shopping malls. And we weren’t disappointed. At Riyadh Gallery, a mall that opened about a couple of years ago, they had the World Cup match on this humongous TV screen that you can watch a mile away. I’m not exaggerating; people on all three floors were watching the same screen. There were about three hundred people there.. Halfway through the match the muttawa came in and ordered the TV off. There were two muttawas and one police officer escorting them. They strolled around this crowd searching for men without women. Because it is illegal for single men to go to a shopping mall. They have to be accompanying a wife, mother or sister. Every once in a while they would stop young Saudi men and ask them where their women were. One guy they didn’t believe had to drag a little girl over to the muttawas so she could verify that he was related to the group of women he pointed at.

Before the muttawas came in it was noisy and men and women stood next to each other looking up at the screen. At every highlighted moment in the match there was either a collective roar or groan. The atmosphere was electric. Then the muttawas came and everyone knew that these three men had come in long before seeing them stroll by. Even Tine remarked on how these muttawas must be feeling this power they had over the people. No one objected to having the match turned off. Women went scurrying off to find seats in segregated areas. Teenagers headed the opposite direction that the muttawas were coming from for fear that they would be stopped because of their hairstyles and low worn jeans. Everyone was silently glancing around, looking for the muttawas and guessing who their victims might be.

We decided to follow them, albeit from afar to see who would they take. They focused their energy on young Saudi men. They even went into the bathrooms looking for hiding offenders. Before we lost them, we had witnessed them apprehend two men. They made the two offenders come along as they continued with their morality raid.

Both Tine and I were angered by how passive people were. It’s as if they really believed that they were guilty of something. Hundreds of people shaking in fear of a couple of bearded men. No wonder that things remain the way they are. People believe they deserve to be treated this way. It took the muttawas about twenty minutes to finish their raid and just like when they came in, you knew that they left. The match was turned back on and everyone relaxed and became noisy again.

Before they left, I took Tine outside to show her how arrogant muttawas are even in the way they park. And sure enough, their jeep was parked on the pavement right next to the automatic doors. You would think they were an ambulance.


Filed under Culture, Fun

40 responses to “Muttawa Raid

  1. I am glad they didn’t break the TV screen!

    I think people fear them because experience and past stories taught them that even if they kill you somehow they will manage to make you appear as the guilty one. And as they say “you fear those who don’t fear God”
    Also I believe they all wanted them to leave so fast to get on with the match 😀

  2. bas nafsi astaw3ib laish y3’alliso 3ala 5alg Allah!
    i’m not a fan of writing in 3arabEnglish, but the Makkawia in me couldn’t resist.

    They should have those men earn their living. A 9 to 5 job that would wreck them by the end of the day. They’d be too occupied with making ends meet to harass people and act all arrogant and haughty.

    This clinging to power, needing to make people fear them, the tyranny, must be a result of something really messed up inside. Priding oneself for being so messed up is just another level of messed up!

  3. Hala

    Pathetic reality, maybe people feel helpless and too defeated to waste their energy on lost case, you know what you can’t cure endure!
    Lovely post though, I kind of feel sorry already that I have to go back soon! viva freedom!!!!

  4. Sandra

    Good grief! Everyone-of both sexes-were shopping, enjoying themselves, and having a good time meeting friends and family when the self appointed morality police show up? You would think that the royal saudi family would be embarrassed by these nimwits. It is the 21st century and no matter how much these imbeciles want it to be the fourth or fifth century-it isn’t!! People were not fornicating-they were socializing and throwing money into the economy. I think that this is a sad commentary on a country that has many wise, educated, and smart people (some of them are even men!). Who is policing the morality police??

  5. ignorant as I am I’m still stunned that guys can’t go into a shopping mall…that it’s actually illegal…let alone the supression of life these muttawas(?) men caused. i wonder if the laws can grow…if the people want them too?

  6. xazizx_

    no words can describe how disturbed that made me feel.
    couldn’t you take some pics?

    I’m seriously thinking of leaving this country for good.

  7. Riem

    Hahaha…. it’s not funny but somehow it is that two women would willingly look for Haia action.
    I SO don’t miss Riyadh (no offence to all the Riyadh lovers)
    I feel as though I live in a different country though its only Jeddah.
    In the past 2 years : I saw their car once in front of a restaurant . And before that I was at a mall and heard their voices asking people to go pray

    A thought: it would be nice to do study on why some people/ cities are more recipient to the terror of religious police

  8. Laylah

    Glad you’re back!!
    Muttawa safari..LOL
    How about a show like “cops” but instead they would follow the Hai’a around 🙂

    this is So maddening…
    Why do people let themselves be treated like hoards of sheep?No one objected?!
    Why are saudis in Riyadh so afraid of these arrogant social terrorists?
    People in Riyadh tend to be more focused on what others think. No one dares to stand out, stand up to fight for justice..everyone just obeys like mindless cattle!!!
    Seriously people need to stop these madmen from terrorizing the public. Just IGNORE them!!

    Sorry for the rant..

    I wrote a post about muttawa encounters awhile ago, it has some good examples of “real life” situations with muttawas and how to try to get rid of them 😀

  9. stefania

    Glad you’re here again!
    About your post: I think the title itself is enough! The shame is that you’re not beasts but persons, women and men!! I suppose it must be very sad to feel prisoner in your country.

  10. Susanne Wheeler

    Hahahaa Mutawwa safari I like it. But come on folks, people quivering in their shoes, I don’t think so, nooooooooooo, that’s a typical Western perception seen through Western eyes.

    I’m absolutely convinced that the majority of Saudis just see it as par to the course, and have absolutely no intention of letting them spoil their fun, otherwise they wouldn’t have been at the mall watching the match in the first place. They knew that the Muttawa would turn up at some stage, just as you did, which is why you went to there.

    To them they are more likely to be considered like pests that have to be tolerated for the moment. Like flies, which no matter how many times you swat them still keep coming back, there’s nothing they can do about them for now, except be prepared, which they learly were, because as soon as the coast was clear the TV screen was back on again. Good on them.

    Times are a changing, eventually their so called power will probably be limited to breaking up canoodling couples, just like happens here in Egypt.

    • Dawud

      Only open sinners have problems with the Mutawwah–them and the youth who love imitating the kuffar. The Messenger of Allaah (salallaahu alayhi wa salam) said, “he who imitates a people is of them”.

      The Saudi government MUST stop sending people to western universities because that’s where the free-mixing of the sexes, the da’wah that beautifies sinning, and the culture of open sinning, kufr, and shirk spreading in the Muslim lands comes from.

      There’s nothing any of you can say to me about this poison in the Saudi society because I’m an American convert/revert to Islaam. Imitating the kaffir culture can lead to the demise of your society and earn Allaah’s wrath upon you…that’s if any of you care!

      • xazizx_

        let me say it bluntly, you being an american convert doesn’t add more weight to your opinion than any of those opinions here, in fact converts usually are more close-minded than those who’ve been muslims all their life, reason?

        they think they need to be ultra super religious in order to make up for the years they lived in sin before converting.

        thus you’re usually more enthusiastic n tend to be more literal in your understanding of the texts we have. we have that problem with some of our youth who live a life full of sins n all of a sudden, something happens in their life n they turn into a stick-in-the-mud, enthusiastic religious people, those are the same people bombing n killing innocent people in the west.

        so yea, and muttawa or whatever they like to call themselves, do in many of their practices cross the boundaries islam laid out for them.
        go back n read the quran n hadith n you’ll understand that driving in the roads n stopping people in their cars just to check if he is with his wife or not is definitely opposite to al-sitr that prophet mohammad pbuh promised who does it in this life to be rewarded with the same in the afterlife.

      • aynur

        Yes, I agree the Saudi govt. must stop sending the Saudi males especially to the US in particular – who like to use the women to get green cards and then drop them whenever they get that. Many also seem to love drinking/partying too. Lovely men.

      • What about the high rate of drugs and prostitution in KSA? Habibi, have ever been to Bahta? Please, stop saying bullshit about western cultures because without them you will be digging the holes in the sand for your shit. By the way, you still don’t know how to use the toilet properly even in Faisaliya tower. No comment!

  11. Jenna

    I had JUST subscribed to your blogroll when you decided to take a break! So glad you’re back… you ROCK!

  12. Pingback: Arrested For Being A Single Man In A Shopping Mall – Camels With Hammers

  13. I agree with Susanne Wheeler, people are not terrorized by them. The behavior of the people is more like that of a person being chaperoned. I remember going to lorida for Spring break when I was in 7th grade. A group of my classmates got together that night in someone’s hotel room. It was mixed gender. My teacher knocked on the door and I hhid behind the curtain. Of course I got caught because she said she could hear my big mouth down the hall…lol

  14. Coolred38

    A pest is something u brush away and it leaves..or u swat it and kill it…muttawa…who have the power to arrest you for anything, everything, or nothing at all…are NOT pests…they are a danger to society and everyone in it.

    OF course the people were afraid…because when you dont have to be doing anything wrong to still get noticed and harrassed and potentially arrested…then you are afraid.

    Simple really.

  15. Never knew men get arrested for going alone to a mall..! What if I want to surprise my wife and bring her a gift!

    I have always known that with great power comes great responsibility. But most of the time it gets misused. This is surely visible here.

    Sometimes your blog makes me feel that every other Muslim in the whole world apart from Saudi is a BIG BIG criminal… !

  16. all4tux

    I agree with Coolred38

    They are police figures, they actually have police man in uniform with them, they can and would fabricate something and arrest you, god knows it happened to me. I think of them as corrupted police, and how would you go about fighting a corrupted police system, if the judicial system dose not want to believe that they are corrupted?

    I try to avoid them as much as i can.

  17. Yemen

    Why dont the muttawa concentrate on he real criminals at malls?! Madness

  18. Lisa

    I love that you refer to this as a safari and describe it as an adventure. I can’t imagine being subjected to this sort of scrutiny, and the only thing in my experience that parallels this is the bully road rage car driver. In some ways the muttawa remind me of your typical school yard bully who grows up to be an even bigger bully – just for kicks.

  19. Thanks for sharing this. You give a vivid account of what happens, and one that shows men are importuned as well, or in some instances more targeted.

  20. Welcome back from your short break! My hubby too complains that I love my computer more than him… it’s not true, but I would hate to have to try to live without it.
    What is really wrong with a large mixed group of people watching a sporting match in a public place? What exactly do they think will happen? That men and women won’t be able to control themselves and the whole thing will turn into an orgy, despite children being present as well? It’s just so ludicrous that people cannot enjoy themselves without being disturbed/threatened by the show of force and control by the Muttawa. What’s wrong with people actually enjoying themselves? It’s just not normal or necessary for grown people to have to be morally policed like that.

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  22. sara

    salam aleikum
    to Dawud
    I am a woman l’ islam.religous of peace and fair .AL HAMDOULILLAH.
    i live in a free country .
    i am super a moderate person .
    No one here is forced to practice. when there practice of Islam is really a will.
    and each does so with his heart.

  23. Athoug

    It is percisely those type of situations that make people not only hate where they’re from, but hate what they believe.
    Welcome back to blogging!

  24. Pingback: Global Voices in English » Saudi Arabia: Muttawa in Action

  25. LOL!
    You are só not a grown-up!
    (Is a huge compliment)
    I cannot believe your friend waited until she was leaving to do this, I think a muttawa safari would be my first choice of tourist amusement 😈

  26. ali

    Wallah, next time I go to the mall and I see these guys, I will go straight to lingerie shop alone and wait for them. When they come I will tell them I am buying undergarments for all the women in my family because they are too ashamed to buy from a Male selling female undergarments and that my next stop is the make up and perfume section.
    That’s the kind of thing they should be focusing on!

  27. ali

    This is a great post as is the blog. Ksa should be proud of this daughter of arabia. I know I am.

  28. ali

    I’m sorry, but people here deserve this treatment for one reason alone: they take it. I have had 3 encounters with mutawwa in my entire life. Each time we parted smiling and no incident. At least speak up damn it! The last time I was buying dinner for a female employee and she was with me. They made a whole issue out of it and the case was eventually dismissed. I told him: you know ur missing a key element in Islam, compassion and forgiveness. He said that he was not. I said, I’m buying dinner for a lady whose alone here, her husband out of town, because who else would and you say such shameful things based on assumption? You are a muslim? He actually had the case dismissed with an apology. Why do people fear people? Mutawwa are just people. Their job is to protect and keep society clean , they should stick to that, properly. They should be resolving issues and fighting crime, not harassing people!

  29. Hi, I came to Riyadh about a month ago…and have been to Riyadh Gallery several times, along with some other malls. I know people may think its crazy of me, but I too have been in search of seeing mutawwa in action! Unsucessful so far 🙂

  30. Ari

    sara says:

    ”salam aleikum
to Dawud
I am a woman l’ islam.religous of peace and fair .AL HAMDOULILLAH.
i live in a free country .
i am super a moderate person .
No one here is forced to practice. when there practice of Islam is really a will.
and each does so with his heart.”

    Islam is a “religion of peace”? Try reading some history, Sara. Islam was spread by the sword. Today, the KSA flag has a sword on it. In our own time there have been over 15,000 Islamic terror attacks, since 9/11 most of them perpetrated against innocent Muslims.

    Fair, Islam is fair?

    Have you noticed that that YOU, as a woman do not have equal rights? That YOU are nothing but chattel, the property of a Muslim man?

    While you, Sara might be moderate if you don’t actually follow the violent, misanthropic Qur’an. If you live in the west you live in a free country. If you live in a Muslim country you are not free.

    No one is forced to practice? Is the penalty for leaving Islam still death for men and prison for women? Nowhere else in the world are people persecuted and murdered for their religious beliefs as in the Islamic world. Virtually every day there are atrocities committed such as rape, “honor” killings, dismemberments in the name of Islam.

    Dream on, Sara. LOL


    Ari, obviously you have grown up with the version of truth brainwashed into your kind. For a historic reference. But I will not blow history of your behind here. Try reading the Torah. Try talking to some sane people like Norman, Noam, Gideon and other rational rabbis who teach the actual Scripture of the Torah, instead of blindly becoming a second in command to Bill O Rielly. Now Hitler was a christian. So do we condemn all the christians to hell? David Ben Gurion all the way down to the current murderers that keep you under their thumb and control have perhaps got you away from rational thinking. Islam was never spread by sword. It was the neighbouring tribes that took to sword to try and stop Islam from spreading. Some of your ancestors who turned tail in Badar, will tell you when you meet them on the day of judgement. In Badar, it was a Muslim army of 313 armed with just 8 swords as against the jews and other followers numbering 1000 armed to their teeth. And you lost dude. Big time…big shame.

    The sword on the flag of Saudi Arabia is not threatening your posterior in any manner. It is the culture here, as it is in Nepal, Bhutan and other countries to wear arms. It is tribal sign of nationalist feelings. No one should see any harm in it. But your kind will always end up feeling threatened.

    Getting back to the spreading of Islam, well the tribes hostile to Islam, were first and foremost invited to accept Islam and overtures of peace were made. Perhaps the agreement at Hudaibiah also slipped your curriculum as you were being trained to become a gun-totting trigger happy “defender of the faith”.

    GO take some time out and study the Torah. The very insistence on modesty that Islam propogates, exists in all the religions revealed by the ONLY GOD.

    The terror attacks perpetrated on 9/11 had nothing to do with Muslims. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that. But you guys wont. See you re not even allowed to. Your newspapers are still censored by the Aman (Military Intelligence). For the history of spreading hatred worldwide and exporting your weapons of mass destructions to places like Iran, Brazil, South Africa et al. You perhaps live in the west. Or if in Israel, then you live in a copy cat that has not just been killed out of curiosity, but has now been mummified. The west has you by the balls. You cannot say a thing against the government. You are taxed even after your death. You cannot even elect your presidents and the president elect is not allowed a recount by the Supereme (?) Court. Which freedom are you talking about? Taking off clothes and revealing yourself is freedom? Ok. Since we lack it and freedom of expression too, why dont you feel free to post nude pictures of your sister or daughter? That would be freedom right? Wrong. The very feeling the mention of this brings to you, speaks of the two faced life you are forced to live. I do not ask you to study Quran. You do not possess the necessary common sense to understand it. Go study your own book. And tell me where Torah gives you the freedom of same sex marriages, nudity, immodesty et al.

    I live in the west and am proud to be able to use my brains. The ready willingness we have to blame Islam and Muslims only to hide our own holes, is beyond my ability to take. Wake up and smell the coffee.

  32. Zee

    Exellent. Keep it up.

  33. Pingback: The immodesty of nail polish | Saudiwoman's Weblog

  34. “No wonder that things remain the way they are. People believe they deserve to be treated this way.”

    What do you expect people to do? Stand up to the mutawwa (i.e., THE GOVERNMENT), and be apprehended and sent to jail on long sentences? How do you expect people to stand up to them? You know your country… and the consequences of breaking the rules here.

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