Inside the Middle East
May 28, 2012
Posted: 1109 GMT

Check out this youtube clip published a few days ago showing a Saudi woman standing up to the Mutawwin, or religious police.

The woman is being told to leave the mall, apparently because she is wearing nail polish and – possibly – because some of her hair is showing.

Although women are expected to cover their hair in public, many women in malls, hotels and restaurants in Saudi Arabia wear only the flowing black abaya, without covering their hair. It is not clear from the video where the incident took place, but it is not uncommon to be monitored in malls by members of the dreaded body officially called The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

“You are not the boss of me” the woman yells in the video which according to an article published by The Saudi Gazette, prompted the commission to start an investigation into the incident.

Despite efforts to reform the religious police, including setting up a human rights unit and signing a deal with the local tourism authority , many a woman will still reach for her headscarf when a Mutawwi is nearby!

This video revived an ongoing debate in the kingdom about the role the religious police should play in Saudi.  Here’s what some tweeted:

Here you can see photos from Inside the Middle East's most recent trip to Saudi a few months ago.

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Filed under: Saudi Arabia •Women

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Mohammed   May 28th, 2012 11:33 am ET

That's what this society needs a brave women alike this one and it will come to an end soon

Noura   May 29th, 2012 8:24 am ET

This incident wasn't based on nail polish & it was obviously used to tarnish the image of The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, there were previous inappropriate actions taken by the lady in "Hayatt mall" which wasn't mentioned. we all wear nail polish which isn't a sin, we shop&dine out & never faced such interaction with The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice on the contrary they were always respectful.

warsteiner   May 29th, 2012 11:04 am ET

I hope they delt with her, This is a woman acting just like an American woman. Loud, nasty you Saudis better check her quick or you end up like us in the US and women will walk all over you just because they can get away with it. Stuff that wench in a bag for a month.LOL

sara   May 30th, 2012 1:30 am ET

I applaud this woman's bravery for standing up to these religious police who in my opinion are just hiding under the guise of religion. I live in Saudi's neighbouring countries and I,too, have been harassed and unceremoniously kicked out of the mall upon one of my visits. They harass and intimidate women. To ask the woman to leave the mall is very uncalled for. If more women stood up to these intimidators and more videos go viral, then Saudi has a chance at actual reform. Kudos to her!

Fa'izah   May 30th, 2012 2:44 am ET

I wonder why they were looking so closely at her to even notice that she was wearing nail polish and if women generally walk around inside of malls without their hair covered, why was any of it an issue?

Women make up at least half of every society – sometimes the majority of society – yet there are some people that feel compelled to treat women like second class citizens or even like children with limited rights and some women accept that oppression.

Saudi women – in fact all women – deserve and are entitled to equal rights, so I applaud every effort that is made to create that type of society.

Kris76   May 30th, 2012 2:59 am ET

@ Warsteiner, How could you be so cruel?? To make a comment like you posted I'm going to assume your a man. NOT all American women are "loud and nasty" as you put it. American, just like any other country has positive and negative people. But, what we do Not stand for are people like YOU who believe women should be stuffed in a bag because she wants the same rights as men. I don't care what your stupid east Indian bible says...women do not need men and we can be independent without YOUR control!! I wish I could stuff you in a bag for month...then you would know how it feels to be controlled. I only hope you never have children or a wife.

Common Sense   May 30th, 2012 3:45 am ET

@ Warsteiner,

"Stuff that wench in a bag for a month.LOL"

I don't know how you can "lol" at that comment of yours. Advocating for violence against women isn't okay in any society. I would say, "right back at you" however I'm going to go the polite route and ask for you to go educate yourself before commenting on other blogs.

Anna   May 30th, 2012 7:25 pm ET

@ Noura: What "previous inappropriate actions" are you talking about? Making eye contact with a man? Talking back to a man? Showing a strand of hair? What did she do that was so "inappropriate"? And how do you know? Were you there? This country practices apartheid against half its population. Women are treated like property (or worse, because most intelligent humans do not harm their valuables). Saudi Arabia is very backward and un-evolved. Until more women (and men) like this lady stand up to such medieval behavior, nothing will change.

maxwel   June 1st, 2012 5:58 pm ET

These men from The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice are disgusting. They troll public places looking for infractions of their interpretation of islam. They act as if they are doing the holy work of God, but they thrive on intimidation and their actions do little to reinforce religious beliefs. They sincerely believe that women are property and, as I've been told, "the cause of evil and foolishness in this world". If Saudi women stand up to them in the same way this one did, it will be a new dawn for a religion that has been hijacked by fundamentalists.

issam   June 3rd, 2012 6:59 am ET

I very doubt nail polish can be the reason.....there is more to it.

T Lan   June 3rd, 2012 4:06 pm ET

Fa'izah, I agree with you 100%!!!! The woman in this video is fearless! Good for her; I think she's amazing :)

armyav8r   June 4th, 2012 5:33 pm ET

@ Anna: First off...I am a proud American (born & bred) and my wife is Saudi. She happens to know the lady that made this video. While everyone is entitled to an opinion I find yours' to be the most outlandish. Your questions & comments were directed at Noura but judging by her name and the fact she mentioned which mall this incident took place in, she's probably Saudi herself. What she was eluding to and what you do not understand is that there was more to this story than what you're being shown. You would only come to this realization if you spoke Saudi Arabic yourself or were familiar with their culture at all which clearly you are not. I would be wasting my time to go into detail on this for you.

If the problems in the KSA that are striking a chord with you or anyone else that has commented on this matter only pertain to women driving, whether their hair is covered, or if their wearing nail polish or not....Then I will gladly take those issues any day of the week over the issues that currently face my own country. If you're an American and you cannot see that we have far worse problems that need to be addressed, then without a doubt you're missing the big picture entirely.

I apologize for coming off rude but bare in mind please that just because another country doesn't conform to that of your own or just seems different than yours' because they don't abide by the same laws and practices doesnt mean it's medieval or practices apartheid....In fact Saudi Arabia is a great place with great people regardless of gender.

Fawad   June 5th, 2012 6:33 pm ET


What do you expect from men who follow an institution – Wahabism/salafism – paid and propped up by the governament that has imams who issue fatwas of killing of mickey mouse. Can you imagine the intellectual emptyness of a brain from within such kind ridiclous rulings come out. These men are not thinkers, they are followers and there is nothing more dangerous then an ignorent follower. These men consider women inferior to them becasue this is what their institution teaches them. I salute the courage of this woman who stood up and told this men to shut it where the sun dont shine.

Ahmed   July 18th, 2012 8:13 am ET

I think the woman who has it. I myself worry so much about my ceulllite. My fiance of 2 years didn't even seem to mind my ceulllite. He keeps on telling me that i look fine, that i don't have to care so much about this kind of stuff.

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