In order to protect the basic rights of citizens, the commission needs to be reformed as soon as possible. Merely hoping that its leadership will be more progressive does nothing to correct the underlying problem, which is the commissions interference with individual liberties. To that end, the government should consider the following changes:
1. The commissions executive bylaws must be amended to preserve the rights and dignity of people and to ensure that no one is entitled to intervene or harm the personal freedom of Saudi citizens. If someone happens to see a vice, the executive and judiciary authorities shall be the sole recourse as is the case in all civilized countries. The commissions guardianship on the Saudi society must stop.
2. The commission should cease to have any jurisdiction whatsoever over Saudi women and simply allow them to live their normal lives as is the case throughout the world. When one-half of the countrys population is female and yet only 14 percent of women are in the Saudi workforce, one can only conclude that attitudes engendered by the commission have contributed to the restriction of their personal freedom.
3. The commission should confine its activities to assisting official authorities in identifying and arresting drug dealers, smugglers, bandits and helping all those affected by floods, rain and fires. This will do more to benefit Saudi society than chasing people and seeking to control their personal lives.
4. Finally, it may be more useful to train the commissions members to carry out their tasks through the Internet instead of allowing them to take to the streets and harass people. In the past, this was their only option due to the absence of such advanced technology, but now the situation is completely different, and what can be achieved through the Internet is more effective than all other methods.
I am realistic and understand that the government is unlikely to abolish the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, but I sincerely hope, out of my concern for our country and its future, that reforms can be immediately undertaken to protect our citizens. Human rights and personal freedoms of law-abiding individuals are sacred and should never be violated by anyone. We need prompt action to address this very serious problem!
Dr. Khalid Alnowaiser is a columnist and a Saudi attorney with offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. He can be reached at: Khalid@Lfkan.com and/or Twitter @kalnowaiser
2012 Arab News