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The mutaween (Arabic: المطوعين، مطوعية muṭawwiʿīn, muṭawwiʿiyyah) are the government-authorized or government-recognized religious police (or clerical police) of Saudi Arabia. They are also religious-policing organizations in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with at least some government recognition or deference which enforce varied interpretations of Sharia law.
"Mutawwa'în" (plural; sing. mutawwa') originally was a casual synonym for the religious police of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, the formal short term for the Saudi religious police is هيئة "hay'ah" which is Arabic for "commission" and is a shortened version of "the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices" which serves as the infrastructure of proselytization and enforcement of Islamic tenets.
The word mutaween (Arabic: المطوعين muṭawwiʿīn; variant English spellings: mutawwain, muttawa, mutawallees, mutawa’ah, mutawi’, mutawwa') most literally means "volunteers" in the Arabic language, and is commonly used as a casual term for the government-authorized or government-recognized religious police (or clerical police) of Saudi Arabia.
More recently the term has gained use as an umbrella term outside the Arabic-speaking world to indicate religious-policing organizations in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with at least some government recognition or deference which enforce varied interpretations of Sharia law. The concept is thought to have originated from Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia.
Other uses and confusion 
In the Muslim Arab world the more generally traditional meaning of mutawwa is "pious man" and generally refers to any Muslim man who "volunteers" to adopt all the orthodoxies of Islam, including the non-compulsory ones such as praying superogatory (sunnah, referring to the non-binding practises of Prophet Muhammad) prayers (salat) or giving more charity (sadaqah in addition to the mandatory zakat). Consequently many native Arab speakers will use "mutawwa" simply to refer to any orthodox Muslim.
Mutaween in Saudi Arabia 
The Mutaween in Saudi Arabia are tasked with enforcing Sharia as defined by the government, specifically by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). The Mutaween of the CPVPV consists of "more than 3,500 officers in addition to thousands of volunteers...often accompanied by a police escort." They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, anyone engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress-codes, and store closures during the prayer time. They enforce Muslim dietary laws, prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and pork, and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as anti-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film which has material contrary to Sharia law or Islam itself). Additionally, they actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of other religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are banned.
Among the things the Mutaween have been criticized or ridiculed for include, use of flogging to punish violators, banning Valentines Day gifts, arresting priests for saying Mass, and being staffed by "ex-convicts whose only job qualification was that they had memorized the Qur'an in order to reduce their sentences."
Perhaps the most serious and widely criticized incident attributed to them occurred on March 11, 2002, when they prevented schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca, because the girls were not wearing headscarves and abayas (black robes), and not accompanied by a male guardian. Fifteen girls died and 50 were injured as a result. Widespread public criticism followed, both internationally and within Saudi Arabia.
In June 2007 the Saudi Mutaween announced "the creation of a 'department of rules and regulations' to ensure the activities of commission members comply with the law, after coming under heavy pressure for the death of two people in its custody in less than two weeks".
See also 
- Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Afghanistan)
- Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Gaza Strip)
- Politics of Saudi Arabia
- The Religious Policeman
References and notes 
- muṭawiʿin; variant English spellings: mutawwain, muttawa, mutawallees, mutawa’ah, mutawi’, mutawwa') most literally means "volunteers" in the Arabic language, Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic by Hans Wehr, edited by J. M. Cowan, 4th edition (1994, ISBN 0-87950-003-4), p. 670.
- Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic by Hans Wehr, edited by J. M. Cowan, 4th edition (1994, ISBN 0-87950-003-4), p. 670.
- Rashid, Ahmed (2001). Taliban (1st Pan ed.). London: Pan Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-330-49221-7.
- SAUDI ARABIA Catholic priest arrested and expelled from Riyadh – Asia News
- BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi minister rebukes religious police
- The Saudi Media Debates Flogging by the Saudi Religious Police
- Saudi Arabia: Gross human rights abuses against women | Amnesty International
- Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia by Stephen Schwartz & Irfan al-Alawir 03/05/2007, Volume 012, Issue 24
- "200 Arrested in Mina for Celebrating Valentine's Day", Arab News, February 18, 2004
- Catholic priest arrested and expelled from Riyadh, April 10, 2006 , AsiaNews
- Wright, Lawrence, Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright, NY, Knopf, 2006, p.149
- "Saudi police 'stopped' fire rescue", BBC, 15 March 2002
- "Morality Police under Pressure", Arab Reform Bulletin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 2007.
- Bonny Ibhawohm (2003). "Defining Persecution and Protection: The Cultural Relativism Debate and the Rights of Refugees". In N. Steiner. Problems of Protection: The UNHCR, Refugees, and Human Rights. Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-415-94574-5.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Mutaween|
- Saudis Arrest Christians For Spreading 'Poison' The New York Sun, May 2, 2005
- Inside Saudi Arabia St. Petersburg Times, July 21, 2002
- "Saudi minister rebukes religious police", BBC News, November 4, 2002
- Website of Saudi Mutaween[dead link] (Arabic)