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Haia chief asks staff to be lenient

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Monday 4 June 2012




The president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) urged its members to show leniency to people and strive to remove fear and wrong impressions about the commission among members of society.

While warning the Haia members against abuse of power and heavy-handedness, Sheikh Abdul Latif Al-Asheikh cautioned them not to allow anybody to violate the fundamentals of religion or the so-called “five red lines,” Al-Watan Arabic daily reported yesterday.


Addressing a meeting of the Haia branch chiefs from various regions of Riyadh province here on Sunday, Al-Asheikh recalled the advice of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah when he met him just after he assumed his duties. The Haia chief could no longer control his emotions and sobbed in front of the audience when he mentioned the king’s words: “Beware, don’t do any harm or cause harassment to citizens. Show mercy to those erroneous and don’t exceed proper bounds in the case of suspects. Always advise people gently.”


Al-Asheikh said King Abdullah reminded him about the greatness of his responsibility by saying: “You are at the helm of affairs of an important and most risky agency. You have to promote virtue with wisdom following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions. As for the fundamentals of religion, they are red lines, and hence I won’t either accept or agree with anyone who crosses them. Therefore, if anyone violates the basic tenets of religion, you should fulfill your responsibility.”


Al-Asheikh urged the Haia officials to mingle with members of society. “They are your brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends, and therefore, we all should be in the same boat and we have to meet each other with a smile. It is indispensable for us to help them as much as possible and prevent them from being harmed,” he said.


Al-Asheikh emphasized that the duty of the Haia members is not confined to monitoring people during prayer time.

The Haia chief also came out strongly against one of his men who ordered a woman to leave a mall because she was wearing nail polish. "I was very disappointed by what I have seen on YouTube, and it pained me very much,” he said. The woman filmed her argument with the Haia official and posted it on YouTube. The clip attracted more than a million hits the first few days after it went online.


The Haia chief did, however, say the woman took her behavior too far and exceeded the proper bounds of Islamic Shariah rules. Addressing the gathering, he asked: “What would be your feelings and attitude if this sort of behavior had been carried out by one of your girls? The matter has been exaggerated and negatively exploited to tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia, as was evident by the 1.1 million who viewed the video. The way the commission member behaved was not right, even if the girl had gone too far. He should have offered her advice and left instead of arguing with her and causing the situation to escalate.”


Al-Asheikh urged Haia members to find time to visit sick people in hospitals, attend public forums and distribute booklets useful to the public rather than just ensuring people attended prayers. He admitted some people are scared of Haia members.


“It is essential for us to break the barrier of fear and dread prevailing in the minds of people about the Haia. There are 4,000 field members among you and if any of them commit any foolishness, it would be damaging to all Haia members who perform their duties day and night,” he said.


Al-Asheikh advised Haia officials not to publicize anybody’s errors and instead be discreet. “I stopped one member from performing field work after reports he had continuously harassed members of the public. One time, he approached me and boasted that he caught 15 women in a single day,” he said.


Al-Asheikh also spoke about the five red lines that must not be crossed and urged Haia members not to allow anybody to violate them or deal with perpetrators discreetly. The first is related to Islamic ideology. The second is blackmail, while the third is practicing black magic and sorcery or benefiting from the wealth of others illegally. He said human trafficking is the fourth while disobeying rulers is the fifth.


The Haia chief warned his members against abusing their power and called it one of the worst crimes. While criticizing those who try to create a wrong impression about the commission, he lauded the efforts of the overwhelming majority of media organizations highlighting positively the commission’s mission.

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