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Saudi Religious Police Embrace Bluetooth Technology - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Taking the motto “Yesterday’s enemies are today’s friends,” to heart the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Riyadh region has decided to embrace Bluetooth technology in its daily activities, despite it condemning it use by the Saudi public for a number of years.

The head of the Riyadh Branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice inaugurated the test launch of what it called the “Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth” at one of the Riyadh’s large shopping centers.

The service, aims to send a number of awareness messages to youths visiting the shopping center from both genders.

Since the introduction of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in 2004, The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has made several attempts to curb what it considers “the negative and immoral utilization of Bluetooth technology in violation of the Islamic Shariaa.” However, these attempts have failed in preventing the technology from finding its way into the hands of Saudi Arabia youths.

Dr Abdullah al-Shithri, head of the Riyadh Branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, does not consider this step a consequence of his organization’s failure to fight what he regards as “the drawbacks that have emerged as a result of using Bluetooth technology.”

Al-Shithri told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Embarking on this course does not mean that our other efforts to fight the bad manifestations of this technology have failed. However, we do want to make use of modern technology.” He stressed his decisive rejection of the rumors that are being circulated that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is opposed to this technology. He said, “We are not against Bluetooth technology. Rather, we are against the misuse of any kind of technology.”

Although still in its testing stage, the “Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth” according to Al-Shithri will be utilized in all of Riyadh’s shopping centers and family parks.

Al-Shithri would not elaborate on the exact number of Bluetooth crimes that have been detected by his commission’s fieldworkers, but did say that that “these crimes are in the hundreds.”

A study conducted in the Al-Qasim region (northeast of Riyadh) reveals that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has intercepted 500 Bluetooth messages. The study adds that 90 percent of these messages were sexual in nature.

Officials from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have admitted the difficulty of controlling modern technologies in general and Bluetooth technology in particular, despite tight measures that fieldworkers from the commission have imposed on all those who are suspected of misusing this technology.

In his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr Abdullah al-Shithri emphasized the “inadmissibility of examining cell phones belonging to the users of this technology without a solid reason.”

“Cell phone users have the right to privacy.” al-Shithri told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Nobody, not even the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, has the right to examine any cell phone without a reason.”

Mahmud Abdulaziz Obaid, a marketing adviser at the Wireless Marketing firm, which is handling this service for the Commission, said that “the ‘Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth’ will be launched in four major malls in the Saudi capital at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan and will be under review.” He denied rumors that his company had a contract with the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to officially launch this service. “We are still in the testing stage. Therefore, we might or might not sign a contract with them.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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