Saudi Religious Police Losing Some Powers Due To Complaints

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An undated file photo shows the head of the powerful religious police, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Humain who was dismissed by King Abdullah on January 13, 2012 according to the state news agency . SPA did not give reasons for the decision and said Humain was replaced by Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. AFP PHOTO/HAMAD OLAYAN | Getty Images

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- The director of Saudi Arabia's powerful religious police says his forces are losing some of their key powers, including arrests, investigations and raiding houses.

Abdul-Latif al-Sheikh was quoted Wednesday by the Saudi pan-Arab online newspaper Al-Hayat as saying some powers will be reassigned to regular police or to judicial authorities. He admitted that there have been complaints about his force's behavior.

The religious police enforce a ban on mingling by unrelated men and women, and they patrol public places to ensure women are dressed modestly and that men go to mosques for prayers.

Saudi authorities instructed the religious police, run by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, to draw up guidelines to keep individual officers from imposing their personal interpretations of Islamic rules.

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