Head of Saudi Arabia's religious police replaced

Women and men in Saudi Arabia (file) Saudi Arabia's religious police enforce the country's strict dress code

Related Stories

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has dismissed the head of the country's feared religious police, the "mutawa".

Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh replaces Abdul Aziz al-Humain as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The state news agency cited no reasons for the decision, but the new head is said to be more open in his attitudes.

It comes at a time when some Saudis have complained openly the religious police is growing more aggressive.

Its officers roam the streets enforcing strict segregation of the sexes, an absolute prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol, a ban on women driving and many other social restrictions.

Those who refuse to obey their orders are often beaten and sometimes put in jail.

Public relations

Correspondents say public criticism of the religious police was once rare, but now its role is openly discussed. There have been several incidents recently when it has been accused of overstepping its authority.

In 2002, 14 girls died in a fire at their school in Mecca after religious police officers allegedly prevented male rescuers from entering.

After becoming head of the religious police in 2009, Mr Humain sought to improve its image by hiring consultants to restructure the organisation, meeting human rights groups and consulting public relations firms.

It also investigated and punished some officers for misconduct.

Mr Sheikh is a descendant of Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of an Islamic revivalist movement which formed an alliance with Saudi Arabia's ruling family, the Al Saud, in the 18th Century.

Mr Sheikh's family remains closely allied to the king's, and his relatives occupy the positions of Saudi Arabia's grand mufti, head of King Abdullah's advisory Shura Council and the minister of Islamic affairs.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Middle East stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Stained glass of man with swordFrance 1 England 0

    The most important battle you have probably never heard of


  • Golden retriever10 things

    Dogs get jealous, and nine more nuggets from the week's news


  • Pro-Israel demonstrators shout slogans while protesting in Berlin - 25 July 2014Holocaust guilt

    Gaza conflict leaves Germans confused over who to support


  • The emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-SabahFreedoms fear

    Growing concern for rights as Kuwait revokes citizenships


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • CastleRoyal real estate

    No longer reserved for kings and queens, some find living in a castle simply divine

Programmes

  • Leader of Hamas Khaled MeshaalHARDtalk Watch

    BBC exclusive: Hamas leader on the eagerness to end bloodshed in Gaza

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.