JEDDAH — Participants at the weekly Abdul Maqsood Khoja meeting here Monday lauded the Hai'a efforts in protecting society against corruption. At the same time, they were critical of the Hai'a working mechanism resulting in the loss of public trust in the body that propagates good deeds and prevents vice.
Abdullatif Aal Al-Sheikh, President of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) acknowledged the shortcomings but called on the people to give them some time as they are now undergoing changes. The Hai'a, he said, should be judged fairly and people should not neglect their positive efforts.
Asim Al-Hamdan, an Islamic researcher brought up the issue of visiting historic areas at the holy sites. Often the visitors are confronted by some Hai’a officials who demand IDs. He hoped that such practices be stopped and demanded that Hai’a officials have a proper background in fiqh (jurisprudence) before offering advice to the public.
Hashim Abdu Hashim, Editor-in-Chief of Okaz newspaper, said that the Hai’a has committed a number of violations and that these violations have harmed the personal freedom of the public.
He added that the Hai'a should deal with people based on respect and trust rather than “invading their privacy aggressively.” What is needed, said Hashim, is to “revise the Hai’a system and re-identify its tasks and discourage volunteers and part-time employees from working there.”
Abdul Mohsen Al-Qahtani, former chairman of Jeddah Literary Club, called on Hai’a officials to act “rationally” to succeed in their tasks.
Hai’a president Al-Sheikh said that what they are doing is promoting virtue and preventing vice. This is the only way that can guarantee safety and security for society. “The King has advised us to protect the basics of Islam and to protect the rights of the people and asked us to be role model for the well-mannered interaction with the public,” he said.
Al-Sheikh said that he has faced many challenges since taking over the reins of Hai'a. Several people have categorized him as a liberal with Westernized views. “There are some people who work for Hai’a and do not want it to change. They want to remain chasing people and following them in streets, breaking doors and invading the privacy. That will all be things of the past,” he asserted.
According to him the number of violations against the commission has decreased lately. “If a violation is committed by the Hai’a once a week I will not remain in this position for one more day. We monitor violations, warn and punish.”
Al-Sheikh said that they have got rid of all the part-time workers and there are now some 6,000 permanent employees. “We admit that we make mistakes and are for change; we want others to appreciate our positive efforts and not to neglect them,” he said.
Last year, he said, the Hai'a arrested 215 magicians and got rid of 426 distilleries. The Hai'a also documented 554 human trafficking and prostitution cases and addressed 700 blackmailing cases.
Al-Skeikh said: “The message we want to convey to the public is that we work for long hours to serve you, we seek your comfort, we do not want to harm you, and if we make mistakes we apologize. We want you to forgive and remember our positive work, have patience as we are changing, and we are re-training the Hai’a staff.”
The Hai’a has organized over 14,000 training courses for its staff in cooperation with 33 universities. Assistance has also been sought from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to train Hai’a staff on dealing with diplomats. Training to the Hai'a staff is also provided by investigation agencies.
The Ministry of Finance, he said, has been approached to provide new jobs for women at the Hai’a. “We have called for the employment of women at the Hai’a and we are praying for that,” he said.
The Hai'a, he said, supports female employment in other sectors too but only if they are provided with suitable environments. Answering a Saudi Gazette question about the absence of anti-harassment system despite the fact that many women are now employed at commercial centers and shops, he elaborated: “We are there to support women, they can call us, we will not leave them without help at shops, and we will stand by their side. We have documented a number of cases such as women being fired because they do not look good and attractive. That is ignorance, it is not accepted.”