Saudi Arabia's morality police has detained a group of young men for dancing at a birthday party and referred them to prosecutors, The Associated Press (AP) reported Sunday, citing a state-linked media report.
The news website Ayn al-Youm reported Saturday that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice raided a private property in the City of Buraydah, arresting the men inside for "loud music and inappropriate dancing", according to AP.
Buraydah is the provincial capital of Saudi Arabia's Qassim province, which is home to some of the kingdom's most conservative clerics, who practice a strict interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism.
An unnamed official told the website that when members of the morality police raided the private property, they found the young men in "a comprising situation in their dance and shameful movements." The official said there was also a cake and candles to celebrate one of the men's birthdays.
No details were released about how many men were arrested or their ages. The official did, however, say that the young men's hairstyles and dress were not traditional, and urged parents to monitor this kind of behavior "because it can lead to immorality and even homosexuality."
A hashtag on Twitter quickly went viral about the arrest, AP reported. Many Saudis ridiculed the raid and pointed out that the men were not caught drinking alcohol or partying with women — both crimes in Saudi Arabia.
Wahhabi clerics view Western music as sinful and birthday celebrations as “un-Islamic”. The morality police are empowered to enforce Islamic Sharia law as practiced in Saudi Arabia, including enforcing dress codes.
Saudi Arabia has been often criticized for its human rights record and its treatment of women. The kingdom is notorious for handing out lashes as punishment for offenses such as insulting the monarchy, blasphemy, or even insulting members of one’s own tribe.
Shortly after King Salman ascended to the throne last month, he relieved Sheikh Abdullatif al-Sheikh — seen as a reformer — as head of the religious police and appointed Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sanad to lead the force.
Despite its less than stellar human rights record, Saudi Arabia won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in 2013, becoming one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.