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Morality police

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"Morality police" is one of many names used to describe groups of people whose job (often self-appointed) is to enforce standards of moral behavior and religious adherence among the general public.

With or without an official mandate from the state, morality police tend to operate in nations and communities prone to extremist religious beliefs – particularly those in which one particular religion tends to be dominant. Unofficial morality police may be indistinguishable from what would in the west be more commonly known as lynch mobs. Some unofficial morality police groups appear to resemble Daily Mail readers who actively enforce their narrow and conservative views on how everyone else should act. Examples of this include the West Bank morality police who — among other valiant deeds — dealt harshly with Palestinians caught playing music too loudly on car stereos.[1]

Morality police may arise as a result of moral panic, such as those generated by impending threats of women revealing their ankles or of people operating light switches on the sabbath.


Between 1979 and 1989, Iran's Islamic Revolution Committees[2] or the Komiteh (religious police) monitored the behavior of Iranians and enforced Islamic moral principles. The police department subsequently took over these tasks.[3]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Saudi Arabia's policing features the Mutaween,[4] a casual term for the nice fellows who wander around making sure that no-one has the wrong kind of fun. These groups are either directly authorized or at least recognized by the government — normally by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.[5] This is the Saudi governmental department responsible for enforcing Sharia law.

Rather unusually, Saudi media strongly criticized the Mutaween for their role in the death of 15 schoolgirls during a fire in 2002. The children were prevented from leaving a burning building because they lacked head-scarves, robes, and suitable male guardians to chaperone them.[6]


See the main article on this topic: Israel

Gangs known as "modesty patrols", originating from the Ultra-Orthodox wing of Judaism,[note 1] allegedly patrol neighborhoods of Israel and use intimidation and violence in order to "preserve the modesty" of women who wear pants and commit similar acts of outrage. These groups operate without the support of the state. In one incident, a modesty patrol was suspected of spilling acid on the face of a 14-year-old girl.[7]

When not throwing acid on young girls, threatening people for dressing immodestly, and beating women in order to preserve their chastity,[8] the general purpose of these guys seems to be to make American Christian fundamentalists seem charming by comparison. In practice, actual violence is relatively uncommon. Mostly the modesty patrols would be more likely to intimidate and generally make people feel uncomfortable for not living like refugees from 3000 BCE.

See also[edit]


  1. Also known as Haredi Judaism. These guys make the Westboro Baptist Church seem progressive and open-minded.


  1. "West Bank: 'Morality police' detain Ramadan fast-breakers". The Jerusalem Post (Jpost Inc.). 27 Sep 2007. "In addition to booking smokers, snackers and carob-juice drinkers, Qendah is also on the alert for young men whistling at girls or drivers playing their car stereos at excessive volume." 
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Islamic Revolution Committees.
  3. Downes, Mark (2018). Iran's Unresolved Revolution. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. ISBN 9781351763165. Retrieved 30 Mar 2019. "Komitehs - was the name, in the post-1979 period, of the religious police in charge of monitoring rgw every day life of the people and enforcing Islamic principles. In 1989, the komitehs were merged into the police department and now are an integrated part of the Iranian law enforcement structures." 
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Mutaween.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Saudi Arabia).
  6. Saudi police 'stopped' fire rescue
  7. 'Modesty patrol' suspected of spilling acid on teenage girl
  8. Woman beat, threatened by 'modesty squad'