Saudis split on admitting women into Islamic police

One reaction says women are troublesome, while another calls for dismantling the force

Saudi people have been split on government plans to break a long-standing ban and allow women to join the Gulf Kingdom’s feared religious police, with one branding women as troublesome and anther calling for dismantling that force.

In local press remarks this week, the new director of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said he was considering plans to recruit Saudi women, in a departure of a long-standing policy that bars females from the influential Islamic police force and many other jobs.

 “We are studying allowing women to work in the Commission…they could have jobs similar to those of men but in their field,” Abdul Lateef Al Shaikh told the Saudi Arabic language daily 'Al Watan'.

He said the Commission, which has often triggered controversy for its harsh dealing with people, is mulling recruiting women in line with instructions by King Abdullah who “strongly believes in giving women them their full rights.”

Al Shaikh, who was appointed by King Abdullah as Commission chief early this year, said his force would continue to play a major role in enforcing Islamic rules in the Kingdom, the world’s oil powerhouse.

“No and 1,000 no’s…I am strongly against this plan,” said a Saudi man in response to a poll conducted by the Saudi daily Aleqtisadiah on Wednesday.

“The women’s society is uncontrollable and admitting them into the Commission will only increase problems and disasters,” the unnamed reader added.

“Yes and 1,000 yes’s,” said another, who called himself Shaikuljin. “But there must be conditions for this, including that a female recruit must be a university graduate and must be above 35 years of age.”

One reader said he believes women can work in any field but added that allowing them into the Commission would be a hasty move.

“Words are easy but when it comes to action, there will be problems….women could be very tough in certain situations and this means troubles and challenges facing the Commission will increase rather than decrease,” he said.

“I am absolutely opposed to this plan,” said a female reader, identified as Rasha. “Women in the Commission will be worse than men.”

Supporters said such plans would open up new fields for women to prove their capabilities and create jobs for the fast growing unemployed women in the conservative Muslim Gulf Kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter.

“I support this good plan because it means new jobs for women, an improvement of the Commission’s performance and the admission of new elements with new attitudes that are compatible with social needs,” said Abdul Monem Hussein.

“It will also allow the Commission to take advantage of the woman’s good sense in identifying some problems associated with females…I believe female recruits in the Commission will be able to tackle problems in their own way.”

Another man, who was not named, said he backed the plan but stressed that female recruits must not mix with men in the Commission. He said female recruits should also be assigned to places restricted to women.

“I am strongly with this plan,” said another reader, Saleh Al Tuwajri. “I wish it will materialize because it will bring many advantages since it will allow only women to deal with offending women away from the controversial male recruits.”

Another reader agreed that women can better understand women but stressed they must be given separate sections at the Commission.

“If the Commission allows its female recruits to mingle with its male recruits, then it will encourage gender-mixing at a time when it fights such a practice.”

A reader identified as Abu Yacoub gave a completely different comment when he said:”Why don’t we just dismantle the Commission and integrate it into the police as is the case in all other countries.”

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