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Kuwait Times on Morality Police

Wooo HOOOO on you, Jamie Etheridge; you bring grammar, tone and content to the Kuwait Times

Kuwait’s illegal morality police
Published Date: January 02, 2009
By Jamie Etheridge

Two female students were attacked by two youths this past week in Hawally, reportedly for not wearing the hijab. The girls were standing outside their school when two bearded young men jumped from an SUV, whacked them with a stick and then jumped back into their truck and took off. The incident sparked outrage and triggered discussions across Kuwait about the self-proclaimed morality police encouraged by a radical Islamist cleric Mubarak Al-Bathali.

In late December, Al-Bathali announced that he had established a voluntary committee for the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” along the lines of the dreaded Saudi mutaween. The mutaween are a sort of religious police that patrol the streets in the villages and cities of Saudi Arabia, ensuring that women are covered from head to toe, that men go to the mosque to pray and that unmarried men and women do not mix in public. They also enforce other important moral strictures, like no mixed dancing or playing rock and roll music.

Al-Bathali said that his ‘vice’ squad will patrol the Sulaibikhat area first and then slowly spread out to other areas. It’s not clear who was behind the attacks in Hawally. Some have argued that it might have been just a couple of youths having fun and playing a trick on the girls by whacking them like the mutaween in Saudi do.

Let’s hope it was a bad joke by bored teens. God help us if random groups of men suddenly start forming ‘morality’ patrols and beating women on the streets of Kuwait. A Kuwaiti mutaween would create a host of problems.

First, the morality police would be trying to enforce a brand of radical Islam and ideology many in Kuwait – both citizens and expats – do not follow. Many Muslim women in this country do not wear hijab and there are no laws that require them to do so – despite the best efforts of the fundamentalists in parliament.

Second, Kuwaitis are highly protective of their female family members and few are likely to accept strange men whacking their mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and aunts in public areas. Following the 1990-1991 Iraqi invasion and occupation, some radical Islamists tried to establish a religious police and had begun even stationing ‘officers’ outside the Co-ops in Jabriya, Surra and elsewhere.

These mullahs carried short sticks and would strike women coming out of the Co-ops who they deemed to be dressed inappropriately. The women, of course, immediately called their male relatives who then rushed to the Co-ops and attacked the mullahs for attacking the women. The resulting chaos led to the banning of the self proclaimed morality cops.

Third, an ad hoc security force running loose around the country poses a real and present danger to the forces of the Interior Minister and by extension, the stability and security of Kuwait as a whole.

Nearly 20 years later, the radicals have reemerged and wider popularity – as evidenced by the fundamentalists victory in parliamentary polls – has encouraged them to reassert their plans for greater social control.

Success for the mullahs will mean failure for Kuwait’s experiment with democracy. Unlike the rest of the Gulf Arab states, Kuwait isn’t just beginning this experiment. For nearly half a century, this diminutive Muslim country has balanced tribal mores and religious identity with the Islamic and democratic ideals of freedom, dignity and self respect. Allowing roving bands of self appointed religious police to patrol the streets of Kuwait will undermine all of the country’s efforts toward balancing tradition
and modernity.

January 3, 2009 - Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, News, NonFiction, Political Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues


  1. Scary…
    And do you notice how they always go on about ”Morality” and ”religion” but all they really want to do is to beat up and harass women!!!!!!

    Comment by Aafke | January 3, 2009 | Reply

  2. Aafke, the scariest thing to me about volunteer morality police – anywhere, including my own country – is that they are usually genuinely well-meaning, but you are right, they take their sticks to women. You have to wonder what it is about women that makes some men so fearful?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 4, 2009 | Reply

  3. They see their own weakness in women

    Comment by MiYaFuSHi | January 4, 2009 | Reply

  4. I don’t know what I would do if some guy hit me with a stick because I wasn’t covered. My first instinct is to hit him back hard, with my purse, which is heavier than a baby!

    Comment by Chirp | January 4, 2009 | Reply

  5. MiYaFuShi – I think you could be right. I just hate it when men blame women for their own lustful thoughts. They must be responsible for self-control, just as we are.

    Don’t you wish men had babies? Don’t you think they would be more respectful of women if they shared that experience? LLLOOOLLLL!

    Chirp – The Muttawa in Saudi Arabia were always respectful to me – but they hit the Japanese women with me, thought they were Filipina, as if it makes a difference (indignantly!) They always said “MADAM! Cover your hair!” and drew themselves up in stern disapproval.

    But this is not Saudi Arabia, and I do not need anyone volunteering to guard my morality. (there I go getting indignant again!)

    I think we need to keep our heads. Tell all your friends to take pictures, to get their license numbers, and then sic your brothers and uncles and fathers on them!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 4, 2009 | Reply

  6. Maybe some men fear women for the same reasons many men hate cats. They are both independent, unfathomable, and mysterious. HandyMan has a whole thing going about men, cats and women. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad.
    In any case, I think I’ll take to carrying bear spray – stick wielding hooligans beware. 🙂

    Comment by DaisyMae | January 4, 2009 | Reply

  7. LOL, DaisyMae, the sticks are these little camel sticks. I think if anyone dared to hit me with a stick, I would grab it and break it over my knee. It is more like a twig than a rod!

    I am interested in HandyMan’s women/cats/men thing – sounds interesting.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 5, 2009 | Reply

  8. This is sad. It seems like a real step backward.

    Expat 21
    “Expat Abroad”

    Comment by expat21 | January 8, 2009 | Reply

  9. It is sad, Expat 21. When religious people – Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim – start focusing one the actions and behaviors of other, instead of looking into their own hearts, things can get bad in a hurry. Too often, their moral fervor seems to focus on women. They accuse us of “causing bad thoughts.” I say – YOU are responsible for your thoughts, and your heart. Your thoughts are between you and God. Leave me alone!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 8, 2009 | Reply

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