Excerpt:

Here's another Arabic word that both you and I would prefer not to have to know but probably should: mutaween. It means "religious police" or "morality police." In Saudi Arabia it's an officially constituted entity whose officers are fully empowered to arrest and punish anyone who violates sharia law – which, of course, can mean anything from committing various sexual acts to being caught taking a sip of water during Ramadan. The Saudi morality police made international headlines in March 2002 when they physically prevented dozens of girls from escaping a burning school in Mecca because they weren't properly covered.

After that horrific incident, which resulted in fifteen deaths, people around the world congratulated themselves on not living in such a backward culture. And yet the Islamic morality police, far from being confined to Saudi Arabia – or even to the Muslim world – are an increasing presence in Europe and elsewhere.


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