Saudi Youth Arrested for Allegedly “Insulting Religion”

Two young Saudi men were arrested in the capital Riyadh by the Committee of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) for allegedly insulting religion. Bader Al-Rasheed @BAlrasheed and Abdullah Al-Bilasi @3bdlla shared their story on Twitter.

According to Al-Rasheed, they were sitting outside a cafe when a CPVPV's car passed by to call people to leave the area to perform evening prayers. He said he argued with the CPVPV member whether sitting at public places at prayer times was illegal.

Al-Rasheed later tweeted [ar]:

@BAlrasheed: لأني أول مرة أسمع بهذا النظام ولعلمي بأن الهيئة ومعظم الأجهزة الأمنية أحياناً يتصرفون حسب مزاجهم ويختلقون لك قوانين غير موجودة
رحت للجمس وسألت: هل هناك قانون يمنع الجلوس في الأماكن العامة وقت الصلاة؟

@BAlrasheed: Because it was the first time I hear of this law and the heya’ (what CPVPV is informally referred to) acts arbitrarily sometimes, I went to their car and asked: is there a law that bans sitting in public places at prayer times?”

The employee’s answer was that it’s haram (religiously forbidden), but Al-Rasheed interrupted saying:

@BAlrasheed: قاطعته وقلت: لا تقول لي يقول الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم، فيه قانون؟ الحديث نصيحة وأنا حر أعمل بها أو لا و(لا إكراه في الدين) أما القانون فهو عقد اجتماعي بين المواطن والحكومة وهذا الشي اللي أنا ملزم به فقط.

@BAlrasheed: Don't tell me what religion says, is there a law? Religion is a matter of personal choice. It's the law that I have to abide by.”

According to Al-Rasheed, the employee was irritated and asked for his and his friend's identification cards.

Then, the CPVPV member started threatening them and inciting the police official to take action against them. Minutes later, another CPVPV car and a police car came to arrest them and took them to al-Sulaimaniyah police station.

Al-Bilasi talked about the inhumane conditions in the cells: “It was small and overcrowded. There weren't any beds or mattresses,” he says. “We slept on the floor. I asked an officer to let me sleep in the hallway but he just cursed me,” he adds.

The next morning, they were taken, handcuffed, to the Investigation and Prosecution Bureau. Upon arriving there, they were taken to a small room where they waited for hours before they were called separately for investigation. The investigator told Abdullah that CPVPV members and police officers are “not to be argued with but obeyed.”

Their nightmare came to an end when they were released after their parents bailed them out even though the investigator called what happened a “misunderstanding.” Religious police were not satisfied and demanded that the two men get tried.

More absurdly, al-Bilasi and al-Rasheed reported a strange story about a Lebanese man they met in al-Sulaimaniyah police station who was arrested for a “religiously illegitimate smile”!

من أظرف القصص في التوقيف.. لبناني يعمل في السواني في الفيصلية محكوم عليه بخمس أيام. التهمة: “ابتسامة غير شرعية”

@balrasheed: One of the more bizarre stories we came across during our detention was of a Lebanese salesman who was sentenced to five days imprisonment. His crime: “A non-Sharia compliant smile.”

The incident happened on March 25, 2013.


  • […] Saudi Youth Arrested for Allegedly “Insulting Religion” Two young Saudi men were arrested in the capital Riyadh by the Committee of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) for allegedly insulting religion. Bader Al-Rasheed @BAlrasheed and Abdullah Al-Bilasi @3bdlla shared their story on … Read more on Global Voices Online […]

  • cestusdei

    Smiling is against Islamic law, but beating your wife is not. I advise that they become Christian. Of course then the Muslims will kill them. How about we all just admit that Islam IS the problem.

    • Christianity really isn’t that much better.

      • Elena

        Biblical Christianity is freedom at its apex. Hypocritical practice is quite another thing.

        • abdoulayebah

          Why about separating religions from politics and remember that they are a
          way to follow what they consider the good way? Which brand names of
          computer are using the profets?

          • Elena

            Because it’s impossible to hyper-compartmentalize those aspects of our lives. They are core issues.

          • abdoulayebah

            religions agree in one point. When we will be making account of our lives in
            front of God, nobody else can replace us. Nobody is responsible of somebody
            else’s behavior. So, why extremists of all kinds don’t leave us live as we

          • Elena

            Actually only the monotheists can agree on that point. Most Eastern religious experience is not one of a specific deity since reincarnation is their mode of thought.

            What the monotheists disagree on is the nature of God. Is He the loving God of the Bible? Allah is not the same as the Bible since he boasts that he is the greatest of deceivers and happily goes back on promises given in order to eradicate an enemy or two. Allah in the Koran and Haddith is a god of war and hatred.

            The kings of Israel were held to the same ethical standard as the poorest of the land. Allah grants Mohammad favors that Moses and David would not have even tht to ask for.

          • abdoulayebah

            Yes, often in the West, when we talk about religions, we have the tendency of believing that monotheist religions are the only existing religions.

            Having been a muslim, I refute your statement that Allah is a god of hatred and war. Or at least, if he is perceived as that is because, his message is being misused for political reasons. I don’t want to enter in theological discussions as I confess that I forgot all what I learn’t. However, I think that all religions have some content of violence. Think about Bruno Giordano and all the victims of Inquisition in Spain some centuries ago or to the Palestinians who are being deprived of their land for the will of one of the few theological countries in the world.

            Recently, when my first son became a priest, muslims from my country who are even not practicing, felt authorized to criticize him and me for having allowed to change religion.

            Let me continue to thing that religion should be a private business between an individual and his God, who ever he is.

          • Elena

            May his ministry be filled with joy and satisfaction. May his light draw many to salvation and equal joy!

          • Shakhnoza Isakova

            “Allah in the Koran and Haddith is a god of war and hatred”

            113 of 114 Surah (Chapters) in Qur’an start with the name of God, MOST GRACIOUS, MOST MERCIFUL!

            “Bring on your proof if you are so truthful” (Qur’an, 2:111)

          • Elena

            Ah, I see you chose only Meccan suras which were abrogated by the violent Medinan ones.

            Allah himself boasts that he is the greatest of all deceivers. He lies when he says he is gracious and merciful, particularity when compared with Jesus, God in the flesh.

          • Shakhnoza Isakova

            Ah, why so much pathos? You see, I chose ONLY ONE SURAH which (as you correctly mentioned) is Meccan one (not oneS).

            As for 3:54 you mentioned…

            They deceived and Allah deceived. Allah is the greatest of all deceivers.

            If you deceive a deceiver are you a deceiver then? (you would assume yes, although it is applicable to God)


            If you profane ‘bad Islam’ are you then not better too? (see, this is applicable to person but your answer would be quite different)

            Dispute is only then good, when each person involved IS READY TO ACCEPT THE THRUTH EVEN IF IT CONTRADICTS HIS/HER WORLDVIEWS.

          • Elena

            Your god cannot or will not follow through on his promises.

            My God does and will always follow through with love.

          • Shakhnoza Isakova

            By the way, the ayah I cited has not been abrogated (correction: these are ayahs (verses) which are abrogated, not surahs(chapters) – great difference for a Muslim like me and a scholar of Islam like you). The full list of abrogations is here'an. Do not mislead people.

          • Elena

            I don’t misled; Allah does. He cannot make up his mind what is right and what is wrong. One moment, he commends Jews and Christians; the next, he damns them to hellfire.

          • abdoulayebah

            Perfect! I totally agree, but at least let try to avoid to force, instead of convincing;)

          • Elena

            Works for me, too. In a perfect world it would be run by the axiom of “live and let live.”

          • abdoulayebah

            Merci, Madame!

          • Yes, but to some, living includes behavior that is destructive to others. “live and let live” only works with the old american commonlaw: “don’t tread on me” Though neither have much to do with religion. And the article is more about corruption than religion. If you look at it objectively.

    • Amdazzler

      The Christian extremists are no better than the Islamic ones.

  • DahirT

    Smiling is a Sunnah (a practise of the prophet) and btw did the prophet ever beat his wife?

    (i thought so…)

  • DahirT

    how is racism and sexism wrong but blasphemy is against freedom of speech (like there is no conditions on freedom of speech)

  • Amdazzler

    The dangers of fundamentalism..

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