Saudi religious police chief says reforms to continue

The Haia has an independent human rights unit that receives complaints and grievances from members of the general public

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Responding to criticism he has received from certain quarters of society, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, chief of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), said no one can stop or regress the reforms that are already under way in the organization.

“Some people on social media websites have launched campaigns against me. They want to choke the reform program I have started in the Haia,” said al-Asheikh.

“There are attempts on the part of some people to make the Haia look like an authority that exercises dominance over the general public and imposes a lot of restrictions on them," he said. "This is, of course, against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

He went on to say that the Haia is a moderate body that follows the path of moderation to bring justice to people and make them feel safe and secure.

Al-Asheikh believes that the attacks on the micro-blogging website Twitter began shortly after his decision to transfer a Riyadh-based Haia member, who had violated the organization’s regulations by using force while arresting a citizen, to another region.

“We won’t allow anyone in the Haia to abuse their powers and use them unfairly. We won’t accept any humiliation of any citizen at the hands of a Haia member. Such actions do not reflect Islam and members who engage in such actions will be fired immediately,” he said.

The latest controversy surrounding the Haia began when one of its members recently approached a citizen who was walking together with his wife and children in a mall in Riyadh and forced him to get into a Haia car. Although people tried to calm the situation and talk the Haia member out of arresting the citizen, the member insisted on arresting the citizen, apparently to humiliate him.

“The Haia categorically rejects this behavior. We have transferred this member to another region as a punishment. He made a mistake and he should be punished,” said Al-Asheikh.

To those who lead campaigns against him, Al-Asheikh said, “We will continue the reforms we have started and we won’t pay attention to these trivial campaigns that try to derail the reforms we have started. We’re working on achieving the King’s vision and expectations of the Haia and we try to guarantee happiness and comfort for all citizens.”

He accused former members of the Haia who were fired after they broke the Haia laws of running such campaigns on social media forums.

"Before firing them, the Haia tried to reason with and convince them that the methods they used with the members of the public were unacceptable. However, they refused to listen and repeated the same violations," he said.

“Those who wanted the Haia to appear as an intelligence body whose officers chase people inside malls, on streets and in their houses are no longer Haia employees. We have worked hard to strike a balance in the organization and we challenge anyone to find errors in our work. We assure you that if there is any error, we will fix it immediately and we apologize for the person who paid the price for the error.”

The Haia has an independent human rights unit that receives complaints and grievances from members of the general public. It also follows up cases related to breach of laws and regulations.

Al-Asheikh thanked all current Haia members for a job well done during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays as the Haia has not received any major complaints regarding breaches of laws and regulations during the celebrations.

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