08/19/2008, 00.00
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Islamic scholar slams religious police

For Yahya Al Najar, from the Yemeni scholars association, vigilante groups that roam the streets wielding sticks to force people to conform to strict Islamic rule are illegitimate. Saudi Arabia’s model of “Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” could spread.
Sanaa (AsiaNews) – An important Yemeni religious scholar issued a warning against self-proclaimed religious police that has lately operated in Yemen.

“We condemn those who hide under the cloak of promoting virtue and preventing vice,” said Yahya Al Najar, a member of the Yemeni scholars association.

The so-called religious police is in fact a group of vigilantes who roam the streets of Yemen using sticks to enforce strict religious interpretations on ordinary people because of the way they dress or behave.

The actions of the self-proclaimed religious police have been met by much criticism from human rights groups and newspapers monitoring the situation.

Al Najar said that self-proclaimed police groups are in fact, illegitimate.

“The promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice is done in the mosques and not in the streets,” Al Najar added.

“Religious hardliners lost many followers because of their rigid way of interpreting Islam and are now using force to bring people back,” Al Najar explained.

He thinks self-proclaimed religious police groups have received encouragement from some Salafi extremist scholars who have been trying to establish an order of “virtue and prevention of vice” similar to the one enforced in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has in fact offered its assistance to those Arab countries that want to promote similar initiatives.

So far the offer has been taken up only in Kuwait where a bill has been tabled in parliament and by vigilante groups in Yemen.


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