Saudi Religious Police Denies Assassination Attempt Against Its President (Riyadh Zbureau, 02/10/2013)

Saudi Arabia’s religious police denied media reports on Wednesday that its president has been targeted with an assassination attempt. According to a spokesman who spoke to local news site Sabq, “the news in the way it was presented is untrue,” he said.

Al-Watan daily reported earlier today that Abdul-Latif al-Alsheikh has survived a recent assassination attempt. Citing unnamed “informed sources,” the newspaper said that he was targeted by a car that aimed to run over him after leaving the mosque where he prayed the dawn prayer.

The paper said the failed assassination attempt was carried out by a Saudi wing of the Muslim Brotherhood following al-Alsheikh decision to fire a number of senior officials from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) who belong to the wing.

Al-Alsheikh was appointed as president of CPVPV in January 2012 with a mandate to reform the feared the religious police, whose members patrol streets, shopping malls and other public spaces to ensure that genders are segregated and shops close for prayer five times a day.

News about alleged assassination attempt comes few days after two brothers where killed when a religious police patrol crashed into their car during a hot pursuit last week in the capital Riyadh. The incident led to criticism of the religious police in the country’s newspapers and social media.

However, conservative clerics like Nasser al-Omar have warned that any attempt at “weakening the commission will lead to the spread of vice in the kingdom.”

Lawyer Abdulaziz al-Gasim, who helped prepare new guidelines for the religious police, said during a television interview this week that such statements by conservatives show that there is resistance from within the organization to reforms proposed by al-Alsheikh.

“There is a large gap between leadership and the field workers,” he said.

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