Saudi Arabia’s religious police has warned against celebrating New Year’s Eve in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom, the local Okaz daily reported.
The Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, known unofficially as mutawa, based its warning on a religious edict from the top committee of Saudi clerics banning such celebrations, the newspaper said on Sunday.
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The Commission also warned Saudi gift shops not to sell any merchandise, including flowers and dolls.
Saudi Arabia follows the Muslim lunar calendar, unlike all other Gulf states that use the Gregorian calendar.
Members of the commission enforce the kingdom’s rule of strict segregation between sexes. They also go around shops to make sure they are shuttered during prayer times.
The religious police have been accused of abusing their powers. But since January last year, they have become more discreet with the appointment of their new chief, cleric Abdulatif bin Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, who banned the use of unmarked cars.
Mutawa also traditionally banned the sale of red roses and gifts for Valentine’s Day on February 14.
The warning against celebrations stood in stark contrast to preparations for New Year’s in Dubai in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.
Dubai has promised to celebrate the night with a record-breaking extravaganza featuring more than 400,000 fireworks,
The emirate vowed to “break the Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest Firework Display’,” a government statement said.
The six-minute show was to feature more than 400,000 colourful fireworks, the statement said.