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Saudi Arabia to criminalise smelling bad in a mosque Open in fullscreen

Karim Traboulsi

Saudi Arabia to criminalise smelling bad in a mosque

'Smelling bad in a mosque' is just one of dozens of new offences [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2018

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Dozens of new offences could land citizens in jail for 'anti-social behaviour' as Saudi Arabia's Shura Council eyes up a new 'indecency' law.
Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, which has limited powers and is fully appointed, is proposing 45 new anti-social "offences" that could see people fined up to $800 for "displaying underwear or stripping naked" in public.

The kingdom's version of the British ASBO lists several offences "against public decency", such as smelling foul in mosques, as well as more serious infractions, such as "racist acts", and provides punishments that may include jail time of up to five months. 

The new offences, a full list of which was published by pro-government newspaper Okaz on Sundayare designed to "limit abuses of personal freedom", said Shura Council member Dr Fayez al-Shahri.

Due to the sweeping nature of the acts criminalised by the proposed law set to be adopted in the coming six months, many Saudis took to Twitter to protest - and to support - the measures.

A hashtag trending on Twitter across the kingdom this morning was #تجريم_الفنيله_والسروال ["Criminalisation of Vests and Pants"].

Of particular interest also was the "crime" of going to mosques while smelling bad, or wearing dirty or inappropriate clothes, which is to be punishable by a fine of 3,000 riyals ($800).

Many Saudis protested the odd move, speculating that it was a racist measure that targeted foreign labourers who go to pray after toiling for long hours in the harsh Saudi sun.

"Nudity" in public places, playing music near mosques and taking pictures of vehicle collision without permits are all also set to be outlawed. 

The Public Decency Protection Bill does however include many measures that received public support, such as punishing behaviour that abuses the rights of people with disabilities, as well as vandalism of public space, littering, public urination and defecation, acts of public nuisance, jumping queues, harming animals, spamming and various breaches of privacy.

Saudi Arabia remains an ultra-conservative absolute monarchy, where a strict version of Islamic law is implemented, with severe implications for human rights.

Under this legal system, corporal punishment is enforced for a variety of offences, including extra-marital and homosexual relations, and freedom of expression "violations". 

In November, Saudi Arabia banned selfies in the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. 

In 2013, Saudi blogger Raif Baddawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and dozens of "floggings" for writings considered indecent and blasphemous. 

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