Middle East

New Saudi guidelines curtail powers of religious police

  • FILE -- In this March 29, 2014, file photo, a Saudi woman takes photographs in a park during celebrations to mark the worldwide Earth Hour in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has issued and published new guidelines Tuesday, April 12, 2016 to define and curtail powers of the kingdom’s religious police. The force’s members, known as Mutawas, are not allowed to chase people down the street or demand to see a person’s ID. They are tasked with ensuring people observe the kingdom’s ultraconservative Islamic codes but have been criticized for sometimes intrusive tactics. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

    FILE -- In this March 29, 2014, file photo, a Saudi woman takes photographs in a park during celebrations to mark the worldwide Earth Hour in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has issued and published new guidelines Tuesday, April 12, 2016 to define and curtail powers of the kingdom’s religious police. The force’s members, known as Mutawas, are not allowed to chase people down the street or demand to see a person’s ID. They are tasked with ensuring people observe the kingdom’s ultraconservative Islamic codes but have been criticized for sometimes intrusive tactics. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE -- In this Sunday, May 11, 2014 file photo, a Saudi woman seen through a heart-shaped statue walks along an inlet of the Red Sea in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has issued and published new guidelines Tuesday, April 12, 2016 to define and curtail powers of the kingdom’s religious police. The force’s members, known as Mutawas, are not allowed to chase people down the street or demand to see a person’s ID. They are tasked with ensuring people observe the kingdom’s ultraconservative Islamic codes but have been criticized for sometimes intrusive tactics. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

    FILE -- In this Sunday, May 11, 2014 file photo, a Saudi woman seen through a heart-shaped statue walks along an inlet of the Red Sea in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has issued and published new guidelines Tuesday, April 12, 2016 to define and curtail powers of the kingdom’s religious police. The force’s members, known as Mutawas, are not allowed to chase people down the street or demand to see a person’s ID. They are tasked with ensuring people observe the kingdom’s ultraconservative Islamic codes but have been criticized for sometimes intrusive tactics. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)  (The Associated Press)

Saudi Arabia has issued new guidelines to define and curtail powers of the kingdom's religious police.

Its members, known as Mutawas, are not allowed to chase people down the street or demand to see a person's ID. The force is tasked with ensuring people observe the kingdom's ultraconservative Islamic codes but has been criticized for its sometimes intrusive tactics.

The guidelines, approved by the Cabinet and published Tuesday, say members of the force also cannot entrap or arrest, which is exclusively the jurisdiction of the police.

The semiautonomous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — as the force is also known — patrols parks, streets and malls, combats drug use, bars unrelated men and women from mingling in public and ensures stores close for daily prayers.