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Saudi Youth Arrested for Allegedly “Insulting Religion”

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Citizen Media, Human Rights, 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) [1] for allegedly insulting religion [2]. Bader Al-Rasheed @BAlrasheed [3] and Abdullah Al-Bilasi @3bdlla [4] 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: [5] 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: [6] 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: [7] 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: [8] 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 [9] 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 [9]: 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.