Weekend Diversion: Taking Virtue to the Virtue Cops

"When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

We definitely need a good song for this weekend, and the one I want to share with you is P.G. by Harvey Andrews. It turns out that this is an incredibly difficult song to find, but I heard it on internet radio (which I love, by the way) and did my best to record it and repost it here. (So that's why the sound quality is so poor.) But it's a fabulous song by a musician who's new to me, and I thought I'd share.

PG - Harvey Andrews
One of the themes of this song is the mistreatment of others, especially of women by abusive men. Personally, I find this is still a large problem in our world, and I believe that as long as this problem still exists, people need to stand united against it.

Well, something happened in Saudi Arabia this past week that people need to hear about. They have a group of policemen --the Hai'a -- from the "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" (known colloquially by some as "virtue cops"). As far as I can tell, these virtue cops go around searching for women who act in violation of the nation's inequitable religious laws, and then beat and punish them.

One of the things their religious laws forbids, apparently, is for a woman to go out on a date with a man.

Seriously. It's against the law for a woman to appear in public unless she is chaperoned by a male relative, and socializing with a man in public is also barred.

What can you do in the face of such unjust laws? Well, you can disobey them. And you can try to disobey them civilly, as one woman in her 20s did this past week. She -- an unmarried woman -- went to an amusement park with a man who was not her relative. And wouldn't you know what happened? One of these "virtue cops" shows up, accosts the couple, and demands that the couple confirm their identities and their relationship to one another. But this story has a different ending from what you might expect.

For undisclosed reasons, her male companion collapsed. And then, from the article, the following happened.

But before the policeman could do anything else, the woman - believed to be in her mid-twenties - laid into him.

He was punched repeatedly about the head and upper torso during the attack in the eastern city of Hofuf Mubarraz.

The assault was so severe and sustained, the officer was eventually taken to hospital suffering from severe bruising.

I think it's wonderful that this woman is standing up for her rights to just be a free human being. (Whether those rights are recognized or not is another story.) Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women's rights activist, had the following to say about this.

To see resistance from a woman means a lot. People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.

The media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger. The Hai'a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something it's all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react.

And while I think it's appalling that people are treated like this -- ever, anywhere -- I'm proud of all the people involved for standing up to these repressive laws and standing up for their individual rights as human beings.

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@ Ethan

... and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States of America -- your country -- and of the European Union -- where my country belongs to.

By Duncan Ivry (not verified) on 23 May 2010 #permalink

I encourage you to seek out a documentary entitled "Our Times". This movie has haunted me and I often wonder what happened to the woman who was featured. You can rent it from Netflix.


That is a very inspiring story but if the virtue police are willing to beat someone for not being "virtious" then I wonder what would happen to a woman who beats a virture officer... If you think shes making headway in the fight for womens rights you might have to mark her down as a "martyr"...

Whats really messed up is that ive read that when virgin women are put to death--since its illegal to execute a virgin--that one of the prison guards would "marry" the prisioner and basically rape her to make her suitable for execution... bar-baric...

no one action will solve this problem. Only evolution... and as you all know that takes a LONG time...


By Jim Jones (not verified) on 24 May 2010 #permalink

Patiently waiting for the right-wing police apologists to come in and let us all know that if the woman wasn't doing anything wrong, she had nothing to fear from the police...

Ethan, thatâs a terrible picture and a terrible story. Itâs a crying shame that anyone should be treated like that in 2010. But lets be balanced if this blog is going to become political, I look forward to next weeks post when you can describe for us how the Israeli defence force used white phosphorus on the civilian population of Gaza , please describe to us the effects that would have on the woman and children of Palestine. If anyone thinks I'm a crack pot read it for yourself from amnsety international - http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/israeli-armys-use-white…

Brutality is wrong whether it be by the Saudi's or anyone else and its up to the decent middle ground people of the world to stand up against it.

The great sin that may be seen with such "morality" laws is that they are selectively enforced at the whim of the existing power structure which itself is all too often afloat in pure corruption.

By Lloyd Hargrove (not verified) on 25 May 2010 #permalink

"Patiently waiting for the right-wing police apologists to come in and let us all know that if the woman wasn't doing anything wrong, she had nothing to fear from the police..."

The straw men haven't showed up -- still waiting?

I think such pictures are horible and hope that we eventually will come to a point in our developement, where such things will never happen again. Greetings, Jessica from Austria.

By Jessica Kruschner (not verified) on 13 May 2011 #permalink