A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is Saudi Arabia's Hay'a Outlawing Rainbows?

Saudi Arabia's powerful Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, popularly known as the Hay'a ("Committee") or the Religious Police, is apparently determined to ban rainbows.
As Brian Whitaker notes at al-Bab:
Recent night-time pictures of the White House illuminated in rainbow colours, plus millions of rainbow-tinted profile photos on Facebook, have alerted Saudi Arabia's religious police to a previously unrecognised peril in their midst: the discovery that "emblems of homosexuality" are on public display in the birthplace of Islam.
But fear not. The haia (or the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, as it is officially known) is swinging into action to obliterate them.
The first casualty appears to be Talaee al-Noor International Schools in Riyadh, whose building proved a bit too gaily painted for the religious police:

It has now been repainted in the colour of a blue rainbow-free sky.

Strictly speaking, the offending colours were not quite those of the customary rainbow flag or, for that matter, an actual rainbow, but they seem to have been close enough to set alarm bells ringing. According to one of the haia's Twitter accounts, the school (which it hastens to point out is a "foreign" one) has been fined 100,000 riyals ($26,650) for "placing the emblem of the homosexuals" on display.
It adds that the person in the school who was responsible for the emblem has been taken to prison to await prosecution.
Whitaker illustrated his piece with a picture of a rainbow-colored Qur'an, which apparently is real and has proven popular in Southeast Asia.

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