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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The word mutaween (Arabic: المطوعينmuṭawiʿin; variant English spellings: mutawwain, muttawa, mutawallees, mutawa’ah, mutawi’, mutawwa') means "volunteers" in Arabic, and is commonly used as a casual term for the government-authorized or -recognized religious police (or clerical police) of Saudi Arabia.

More recently the term has gained use as an umbrella term outside the Arab-speaking world to indicate religious-policing organizations in several Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with at least some government recognition or deference, who enforce varied interpretations of Sharia law. The concept is thought to have originated from Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia.[1]



"Mutawwa'în" (plural; sing. mutawwa') originally was a casual synonym for the religious police of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, the formal short term for the Saudi religious police is هيئة "hay'ah" which is Arabic for "commission" and is a shortened version of "the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices" which serves as the infrastructure of proselytization and enforcement of islamic tenets.


Other uses and confusion

In the Muslim Arab world the more generally traditional meaning of mutawwa is "pious man" and generally refers to any Muslim who "volunteers" to adopt all the orthodoxies of Islam, including the non-compulsory ones such as praying extra prayers or giving more charity. Consequently many native Arab speakers will use "mutawwa" simply to refer to any orthodox Muslim.

Change in use

The phonetic romanization "mutaween" has gained increasing use as a generic term outside the Arab-speaking world for any religious-policing organization in a Muslim nation. This may range from official state bureaucracies to unabashed militant enforcers aligned to powerful local clerics (e.g.Basij in Iran).

Recently (2005), "mutaween" has appeared to describe the enforcement of Sharia by autonomous groups within Muslim enclaves located inside secular nations.[citation needed]

Mutaween in Saudi Arabia

The Mutaween in Saudi Arabia are tasked with enforcing Sharia as defined by the government, specifically by the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). The Mutaween of the CPVPV consists of "more than 3,500 officers in addition to thousands of volunteers...often accompanied by a police escort." They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, anyone engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress-codes, and store closures during the prayer time. They enforce Muslim dietary laws, prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and pork, and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film). Additionally, they actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of other religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are banned.[2][3]

Among the things the Mutaween have been criticized or ridiculed for include, use of flogging to punish violators,[4][5] banning Valentines Day gifts,[6][7] arresting priests for saying Mass,[8] and being staffed by "ex-convicts whose only job qualification was that they had memorized the Quran in order to reduce their sentences."[9]

Perhaps the most serious and widely criticized incident attributed to them occurred on March 11, 2002, when they prevented schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca, because the girls were not wearing headscarves and abayas (black robes), and not accompanied by a male guardian. Fifteen girls died and 50 were injured as a result. Widespread public criticism followed, both internationally and within Saudi Arabia.[10]

In many incidents in 2008, they have been criticized for many deaths occurring in separate occasions including one man's death from a heart-attack that occurred while he was in their custody. The employers of the man claimed that he would not have had the attack unless triggered due to extreme pressure or stress.

See also


References and notes

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Religious police (aka clerical police, morality police, moral police, or sex police) are groups that are funded, legally authorized, and/or recognized by a government, frequently a theocracy, to enforce morality. Mutaween or hisbah groups are the religious police who enforce sharia law within Islamic theocracies.



  • Maybe God isn't the sex police, Richard. Sometimes I think Christians get all hung up on the sex thing because it's easier to worry about sex than to ask yourself, am I a good person? […] It makes it easy to be cruel, because as long as you're not fucking around, nothing you do can be that bad. Is that really all you think of God?
    • Anita Blake, to Richard Zeeman
    • Laurell K. Hamilton (June 2007). "chapter 44". The Harlequin (1st edition ed.). Berkley Books. pp. pp. 391-392. ISBN 978-0-425-21724-5.  

See also

Countries with religious police


External links


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