A YouTube video of a Saudi woman defying orders by the notorious religious police to leave a mall because she is wearing nail polish has gone viral, attracting more than a million hits in just five days.
The three and a half minute video shows members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice telling the women to ‘get out of here (the mall)’. But she refuses to comply, saying, “I’m staying and I want to know what you’re going to do about it.” “It’s none of your business if I wear nail polish,” the unidentified woman, who is not seen on tape, is heard shouting at bearded men from the feared religious force.
“You are not in charge of me,” she defiantly shouts back, referring to new constraints imposed earlier this year on the religious police banning them from harassing Saudi women over their behaviour and attire. “The government has banned you from coming after us,” she told the men, adding “you are only supposed to provide advice, and nothing more.”
In January, Saudi King Abdullah appointed a moderate to head the religious police raising hopes that a more lenient force will ease draconian social constraints in the Islamic country. Two weeks into his post, Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh banned volunteers from serving in the commission which enforces the kingdom’s strict Islamic rules.
And in April he went further prohibiting the religious police from “harassing people” and threatening “decisive measures against violators.” As of Monday, the video was viewed more than 1,142,000 times, with over 12,000 people posting comments online, most of them denouncing the woman’s behaviour.
One posting said she had ‘no shame’ and accused her of ‘prostituting’ herself.
The clip earned only about 1800 likes. The number of dislikes reached almost 7,000. The woman filmed the incident herself and posted it on YouTube. At one point during the video, she cautions the religious police that she has already posted the exchange online. It is also not clear if the woman was eventually forced to leave the mall.
The religious police prevent women from driving, require them to be covered from head to foot in black, ban public entertainment, and force all commerce, from supermarkets to petrol stations, to come to a halt at prayer times, five times a day. Saudi Arabia will also be the only nation competing at the 2012 Olympics without a single female among their team.