Saudis’ religious police goes high tech

Special to

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia’s religious police force plans to deploy
advanced technology.

The religious police jailed an American woman in 2008 for sitting next to a male at a Starbucks in Riyadh.

The religious police, called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue
and the Prevention of Vice, has signed an agreement to receive a range of
technology from the state-owned King Abdul Aziz City for Science and

The accord, signed on Nov. 23, was meant to grant the religious
police expertise in the areas of space science, information technology,
telecommunications and electronics.

“We are also coordinating with other government agencies in the field of
research, and we exchange experiences and information besides providing
consultancy and implementing national projects,” KACST president Mohammed
Ibrahim Al Swaiyel said.

The religious police, assigned to enforce Islamic mores, has sought to
double its force to 10,000 officers. The Saudi government, in an effort to
ease widespread criticism of the force, intends to expand the mission of the
religious police to include border security.

On Dec. 8, the commission raised the prospect that it would revise
operations. In a meeting in Tabouk, the religious police force said it would
seek to implement recommendations to change the image of the unit.

Under the agreement, King Abdul Aziz City would help the police in
research and development as well as technical solutions. Officials said the
police, known as Haia, would acquire digital maps and satellite images to
establish a geographical information systems unit.

“This will serve the needs of the Haia to achieve many of its goals,”
religious police chairman Abdul Aziz Al Humain said.