Scuffles in Janadriyah

High on what they seem to think is a victory in the Hamza Kashgari affair, religious conservatives opened another front by sending some of their young followers to protest against music, dancing and the mixing of men and women in the National Heritage and Culture Festival aka Janadriyah.

It all began when Sheikh Saleh al-Lihedan, former head of the judiciary, said that women should not visit Janadriyah. “My advice to anyone is to dignify their women, their wife, their mother, or anyone under his guardianship by not allowing them to go” to such events, he said.

Few days later, dozens of these religious conservatives, usually called “Mohtasbeen” headed to Janadriyah, where they clashed with security forces there. Few of them have been briefly detained. The incident was repeated the next day, and few other people were arrested as well.

Now some might think that those mohtasbeen are part of the Commission of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) aka Muttaween or the Religious Police, but that’s not the case. This group, most of them young men in their late teens and early twenties, act as some sort of unofficial muttawaeen who find things like music, dancing and gender mixing objectionable and believe they have the right to attempt to prevent things like this:

I thought the story ended after the two scuffles on Wednesday and Thursday, but I was wrong. Yesterday, members of the official CPVPV squad in Janadriyah wrote a letter to their boss announcing they would go on strike until their demands are addressed. What are their demands?

  • Increase number of CPVPV squad in Janadriyah to 300 members.
  • Stop playing music on loudspeakers.
  • Provide a 100 female security guards squad to support them.
  • Stop intervention in how to do their job by anyone, including security forces and the national guard.

Ballsy move there, no doubt. It is not everyday that government employees in Saudi Arabia threaten to go on strike. At the end of the letter, they said they were doing this because without addressing their demands they would no longer be able to do their job in a manner that is satisfactory to God first, and to their superiors second. See, these guys are not doing this for the money. They do it because they seek reward from God.

After meetings between CPVPV officials and organizers of Janadriyah, it was decided that starting today and until the end of the festival music will be stopped and the number of CPVPV squad in Janadriyah will be increased to 100. Another small victory for the conservatives.

However, this was not enough for them. Today, a group of 50 clerics led by Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak and Nasser al-Omar released a statement calling on the government to cancel Janadriyah and the upcoming book fair because they “include many violations of Sharia.”

What does it all mean?

I’m not quite sure, but it seems that the tide of the conservative wave that I wrote about last month keeps on rising, and that there are groups and individuals who want to take advantage of this be sweeping everyone and everything in their way.

8 thoughts on “Scuffles in Janadriyah

  1. With all these strike threats, it may be about time for the CPVPV to form the first Saudi worker’s union.
    Health benefits ought to be high on their demand list, especially mental health benefits.

  2. My feelings are confused actually, in a way i support the ” ideas ” of no gender mixing, but in the other hand people need to enjoy and have things like Janadriyah . Also i DON’T support at all stopping and censuring the book fair because i think no one have the right to control how people should think and what to read .

    • I’m curious to kow what you think is the ‘idea’ of no gender mixing. It is interesting you say in the next sentence that no-one has the right to control how people think. To me those two concepts seem contradictory.

  3. I’m surprised the national guard gave into the CPVPV and allowed more patrols into Janadriyah. The national guard seems to be a progressive element in the country.

    I was at Janadriyah this year, and found it to be a wonderful festival. I hope to return next year with my family. On the night I was there it seemed as though there were more women than men, and the atmosphere was festive, fun, and positive. Families found places on the grass to spread a rug and share tea and food. I understand that over the past several years, more days have become dedicated to families and fewer days to men-only. This gender mixing we are talking about then, these are families mixing, not groups of single men and single women.

  4. Oh my God, will these ignorant kill-joys never give up??
    Personally I believe they have deep-seated psychological problems along with many personal and character defects which
    need to be covered up by their holier-than thou attitude !!
    The country would be much better off without any of them and without their warped and twisted interference in other people’s affairs. Neither the country nor the religion needs them !!

  5. And what would life be like in Saudi without such grand showcases of authentic cultural experiences in the magical kingdom. Too bad I missed it!

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