Are there any two words as comforting as "religious police"? Doubtful. Especially if they follow the words "Saudi Arabia's."
Saudi Arabia's religious police, also known by the even more comforting title "The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice," said recently that citizens in Riyadh would no longer be allowed to buy or sell cats and dogs, or to go out in public with cats and dogs they already own. The completely sensible reason: men have reportedly been using the pets to try to meet women, which it seems must be prevented at all costs.
The head of the CPVPV, Othman al-Othman (or as we would say in the West, Othman Jr.), said that his commission was following an "old religious edict" that had been issued (when, he didn't say) by the supreme council of Saudi scholars. It was being enforced now, he said, because of increasing problems with men using the animals "to make passes on women and disturb families." He did not give details of how families were being disturbed by the pet-wielders. "If a man is caught with a pet," al-Othman said, the pet will be immediately confiscated and the man will be forced to sign a document pledging not to repeat the act. If he does, he will be referred to authorities."
The Commission is also the group responsible for such crowd-pleasers as requiring women to be covered from head to toe in public, and not letting them drive at all. It also handles the concessions for the Saturday-afternoon-matinee beheadings. (The graphic to the right was created by the then-anonymous Saudi author of a blog called The Religious Policeman. He somehow kept his head but lives in England now.)
The AP report suggested that the real motive behind the ban was simply to reduce pet ownership, which conservative Saudis view as a sign of Western influence. The report said pet ownership is uncommon in the Arab world, but is becoming increasingly fashionable among the upper class, which may be causing the anti-pet backlash. While dogs are considered "unclean" in Islamic tradition, the report said the ban on cats is more puzzling, since the Koran makes it fairly clear that at least one close companion of the Prophet Muhammad was a cat-lover.
Link: AP via Yahoo! News