Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tales about the religious policeman

If you don't already know, there are religious policemen here, their motto being "The prevention of vice and the preservation of virtue."

Perhaps you wonder what the religious policemen do. Amongst other things is to check out the Malls and public places making sure that women are covered appropriately. The foreign women have now learnt not to argue, to just cover their head and walk away. I did hear of accounts of how a woman's exposed ankle was spray painted with pink paint. Apparently it was a punishment as her as her abaya was not long enough to sweep the streets and thus did not cover her ankles. And the pink paint was the sign of shame like the scarlett letter.

Another woman told us about how the religious policeman insisted that she took off her spectacles. The crime? She had some diamond like studs on her frame of her glasses (which we wore between the face veil in the ninja like manner.) She tried to explain to the policeman that hers were prescription lenses and she will be needing them to see. He dismissed her reasoning and stressed that women's accessories must not be seen. Meekly she took them off, stumbled a few steps into a shop and put her glasses on again.

And the men get it too. A woman told us about her good looking brother who was hauled by the religious policeman to stay overnight in jail. His crime? He sat outside a supermarket while waiting for his family to finish their shopping. Then came the religious policeman who started harassing him, asking him what he was doing there. He told them that he was waiting for his family to finish shopping. But no! The religious policeman refused to believe him. They claimed that he was there to look at the women as they came in and out of the supermarket. When they saw him trying to call his family inside, they took the mobile phone away and accused him of distributing his phone number to the ladies that pass by. And he broke own cardinal rule, by not being meek and walking away, he answered back to them, saying that their charges were ridiculous. They hauled him in the police van and put him in a cell for overnight observation.

Does this make the society more virtuous?

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