Saudi Woman Beats Up Religious Police Officer

When a Saudi religious policeman questioned a young couple walking together in an amusement park he got a painful surprise – when the woman suddenly attacked him.

The officer, from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, asked the pair to confirm their identities and relationship to one another.

Unmarried men and women are barred from mixing under Saudi Arabia’s strict Islamic rules.

The young man immediately collapsed for reasons that have not been made clear, the Jerusalem Post reported.

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

Public opinion appears to have been firmly behind her.

‘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,’ Saudi human rights activist Wajiha Al Huwaidar told the Media Line news agency.

‘To see resistance from a woman means a lot… This is just the beginning and there will be more.’

For more, go here and here.

Thanks, J-Bro, for demonstrating that I clearly forgot to post this yesterday.

19 thoughts on “Saudi Woman Beats Up Religious Police Officer

  1. I still don’t know what to think about that. I guess I wonder what the retribution will be.

  2. I would suspect that she will be made an example of in order to keep women in their place….but I sure hope not…

  3. That’s pretty much where my mind immediately jumped as well. It depresses the bejeezus out of me.

  4. What an astoundingly courageous woman.

    This bit
    “The young man immediately collapsed for reasons that have not been made clear”
    sounds suspiciously like code for “the young man was whacked over the head by the policeman, who officially denies whacking him over the head”. I admit that’s a bit speculative, but why would he just happen to immediately collapse?

  5. If she counts as a “hero,” then I hope that the person who decides to beat up Bush, Cheney, or Harper also counts as a hero. Or the man who beats up his tyrannical and emotionally abusive wife. Oh wait–that’s a no-no, but you’d never know it from some of these posts. Standing up to tyranny is one thing; exercising your own tyranny in the process is another.

    If the man had beaten up the religious police officer, I suspect you’d all be quicker to point out that this constitutes assault, and that taking the law into your own hands is not acceptable–despite sympathising with his (their) plight.

    While I can sympathise with the couple and with their frustration, I don’t feel that violence against another person is justified. She is NOT a heroine. An example SHOULD be made of her–not for breaching an unjust law (although this is doubtless what will be focused on, and I don’t don’t the punishment will be extravagant), but for assaulting someone who was, ultimately, just doing what he is paid to do. As ever, shooting the messenger is far less effective than shooting the person who sent the message. Not that anyone should be shot over it.

    Assaulting the police is a serious crime in the West. You should expect

  6. “You should expect at least a comparable punishment.” Apologies for the fragment.

    Also, please note the rhetorical use of my initial examples. I don’t condone the use of violence against anyone–whether male or female is irrelevant, and neither is fundamentally worse.

  7. Michel- Bush was democratically elected, we got to elect a new president when his term was up. A man can leave an abusive wife. What non-violent options does a woman, living under a dictator, in an extremely patriarchal society, have?

    The religious police are separate from the regular police- and they are notorious for bring heavy handed with their batons. I think Rachael is probably right that the woman was defending the man she was with.

  8. Kathryn – Perhaps, but we don’t have that information. What we do know for sure is that she inflicted severe harm upon someone else, and the justification is “it’s a bad law”. That’s not acceptable, unless we embrace some serious double standards. Suppose it had been the man in the couple who had beaten up a female police officer–would you still feel that the gesture was as heroic?

    To say that no other options existed, given the information that we have, is incredibly disingenuous, and an uneven application of the principle. I can specialise the circumstances in the husband/wife case, for example, until no other option seems possible–but that’s not the point, and it doesn’t reflect the amount of information that we have about this case. And, even if self-defense is applicable in this case, it still doesn’t excuse the comments that legitimate the generalisation of this sort of behaviour (e.g. “an example for us all”).

    You can make a scene and challenge a law without resorting to violence. In downtown Ottawa two days ago, a Royal Bank branch was firebombed by a group angry about its sponsorship of the winter Olympics, since they were held on stolen land. The complaint is legitimate, but I doubt anyone would characterise the act as heroic. Sure, it creates a scene–but it also involves (potentially) hurting other people.

    The Black Panthers were surely on the right side, but even today we still condemn their violent actions–hell, one was barred from entering the country to speak to an audience at Queen’s University just a couple of years ago. That’s because, even though we can’t really properly imagine living under such oppression, we can still separate the cause and the people from their actions. You say that Bush and Cheney (and Harper) were democratically elected (despite some hiccups in the first Bush election), and that this mechanism keeps them safe from legitimate violence. Leaving aside questions of why this is, if the oppression that they represent is real (I won’t press the issue, since the examples aren’t the point), what about their own actions? Bush and Cheney are directly responsible for the torture of thousands and the unjustified invasion of two sovereign countries. Once again, we can praise most of their intentions (e.g. “keeping the US safe”), but still disagree with their barbaric and inhumane methodology. These are not pills that we have to swallow together.

    This is a sensational story, no doubt about it–although again, it’s not that surprising. My own partner would be much better to have in a fight than I am, for all that I look more imposing. Certainly, if the choice is between being beaten up and beating the other up, then self-defense is legitimate. In the absence of more information, however, I find it exceedingly hard to say that there was no other option available. And, even if there was no other option in this case, I still find it deplorably callous that so many are willing to generalise (e.g. “an example for us all”), implying that beating up Saudi police officers is an appropriate response to their oppression.

  9. I think you either misunderstood me, or are conflating my comment and someone elses…? I’m not saying she had no non-violent options. I was asking what you thought they were. While you think it’s wrong to assume she had none, I also think it’s wrong to assume she did.

  10. Michel: I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you haven’t heard of the Saudi religious police. They aren’t actual police. The Saudis have actual police as well, who go around enforcing laws in much the way you would expect.

    The religious police are different. They roam the streets, beating up people who don’t meet their moral standards.

    Sometimes, they barricade young women in a burning building to die because they aren’t wearing appropriate Islamic dress.

    Do you still want to criticize the woman in the article for using force against one of them?

  11. Oh, and if you’re ever tempted to think that these are reasonable people, it took them EIGHT YEARS after that event to issue a ruling allowing male firefighters to enter a girls’ school should one catch on fire again.

    Anybody who beats these guys up, for any reason, is kind of okay with me. I doubt I could defend that either philosophically (which I am not qualified to do in this company ;-) or legally (which I am at least in the US), but I’ll stand by it.

  12. Let me say I’m puzzled about the question of force. I don’t think I’ve ever used physical force to enforce anything, and might not be able to do so. However, putting natural inclinations aside, I’d like to make two points:

    Our intuitions about the abused husband beating up his abusing wife may not be very reliable. That is, we may well find it hard to think of male on female violence without some sense that men are bigger and stronger. If we change the example enough to cancel any such sense, our intuitions may change – certainly , mine do (I think – these are tricky matters). If the story is about a pre-puberty young male child who has been physically abused finally turning on the abusing mother, I’m more inclined to accept his actions.

    Also, I don’t get the Chaney thing. Goodness knows how many thousands of deaths he’s responsible for. I think for our troops alone we are at about 1000 dead (which one hears is proportionally small). So if my son were one of the deaths and I met a weakened Chaney in a dark alley, would I want to hit him some? Can there be in such egregious cases a citizen’s punishment? I am at least unsure a citizen’s punishment is wrong

    Given how J-Bro has described the case, the Saudi woman is more like the bereaved mother. When evil gets protected by the law, I’m less sure a citizen’s punishment is to be ruled out.

  13. I think it’s also likely that (1) the religious “policeman” initiated violence against her and/or her companion, and (2) if she hadn’t taken him down, he would have taken her and/or her companion down. He may in fact have taken her companion down; no article I’ve seen explains why he collapsed.

    That’s what these guys do: they confront people they don’t feel are meeting (Wahhabi) Islamic standards for public dress or conduct, and they beat the hell out of them. The presumption in any encounter with them is that they will initiate violence, so even absent the “citizen’s punishment” theory she is likely a valid self-defender under any legal theory other than Saudi law.

  14. (Though in the UK she would probably be prosecuted for disproportionate use of force.)

  15. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been some outcry against the idea of citizen’s punishment. I’m not sure what I was doing let such a thought out uncriticized, as it were.

    Perhaps to some extent it’s an extension of the idea of self-defense, with a little retribution added in.

  16. While it might be satisfying to watch someone who richly deserves it get thrashed, I think “citizen’s punishment” is wrong. It’s barely half a step from the lynch mobs of the American South. There are a lot of reasons we leave punishment up to the courts, as imperfect as that system is, and one of them is.

    There are thousands of American “tea party” activists who’d love to mete out “citizen’s punishment” to our current President, and probably a lot of them wouldn’t mind catching a stray feminist philosopher alone out in the sticks either.

    This is not the theory I’m using to justify the use of force against the religious policeman in the original article.

  17. Whoops, editing failure:

    While it might be satisfying to watch someone who richly deserves it get thrashed, I think “citizen’s punishment” is wrong. It’s barely half a step from the lynch mobs of the old American South. There are a lot of reasons we leave punishment up to the courts, as imperfect as that system is.

    There are thousands of American “tea party” activists who’d love to mete out “citizen’s punishment” to our current President, and probably a lot of them wouldn’t mind catching a stray feminist philosopher alone out in the sticks either.

    This is not the theory I’m using to justify the use of force against the religious policeman in the original article.

  18. I hope this post isn’t dead yet. I just had to comment.

    I think Michel’s view is a little naive. We don’t even have anything here in Canada that comes close to these “religious police”. To compare this woman’s actions to western models of appropriate responses to violence is absurd.

    The closest scenario I can think of–and it’s a stretch–would be the citizens’ group that patrolled Parkdale, a high crime district in Toronto about 15 years ago. They called themselves The Guardian Angels. I don’t know if they’re still around. I found their MO to be thoroughly self righteous and obnoxious, and somebody may have done something about them, especially since the Hell’s Angels moved in shortly after that.

    This organization claimed to be acting on behalf of citizens who were afraid of the drug peddlers, violence and nasty acts of prostitution that were taking place openly in public parks, etc. in the area. That’s what they CLAIMED. In reality, they were too chickenshit to go after any of the dealers or pimps or really scary criminals. What they did was approach any woman that looked “sexy”(?), assuming that she was a prostitute, and swarmed her, preached at her and chased her away. I was advised to introduce myself to these morality peddlers if I didn’t want the same treatment on my way home. As if all the creepy old men in the area weren’t bad enough!

    If any of these clowns approached me when I was walking with my boyfriend, accused us of being whatever’s and started beating him down for it, I would have done the same thing as the Saudi woman–to the best of my ability. Of course, I’m not so sure about my ability to take down a man who could knock any boyfriend of mine out cold. But I’d do my damnedest.

    What she did was clearly self-defense. The “police officer” would have beat her brain-dead if she’d let him. I don’t know about other western countries, but I believe our legal system is somewhat lenient with people who use slightly more force than what’s required to defend themselves against an assailant who is already guilty of aggravated assault and was about to turn on a second victim. By our standards, she was more than justified in what she did.

    Unfortunately, Saudi courts will probably beat her brain dead for what she did anyway.

    Jender/J-Bro, please keep us posted about the outcome. I’m interested in what will happen to these people.

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