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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 14
Oops! Saudi man flies 'pretty' rainbow flag, ends up in jail
Section One
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Oops! Saudi man flies 'pretty' rainbow flag, ends up in jail

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Saudi man was arrested by the country's religious police after he hoisted a rainbow flag over his house in the city of Jeddah. He was released after convincing authorities he had no idea the flag symbolized LGBT pride.

According to local news reports translated by the newspaper The Guardian, the man, a doctor, ordered the flag online because one of his children thought it was 'pretty.'

When he got the flag and raised it on a three meter pole over his house, he was visited by police from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the government agency charged with enforcing sharia law restrictions on public conduct, including dress codes, separation of men and women, observance of prayer times, and sexual misconduct.

Same-sex sexual contact is illegal in Saudi Arabia and may be punished by death - even for the first offense - although public flogging and prison time are more common penalties.

Fortunately for the doctor, he was able to convince authorities that he was only trying to make his child happy and was totally unaware what the rainbow flag meant in the wider world outside Saudi Arabia.

The flag was confiscated by the police, but the doctor was released without charges. He could have been charged with the crime of 'promoting the vice and practice of homosexuality.' In 2014, a man convicted of that offense was sentenced to 450 lashes and three years in prison.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was created by King Fahd in the 1980s after a shoot-out with militant Islamists in Mecca's Grand Mosque - the holiest place in Islam - convinced the Saudi royal family they needed to make concessions to conservative religious forces in their country.

The Committee controls some 4,000 police officers.

According to The Guardian, similar confusion occurred in Afghanistan in 2011. Secondhand cars with rainbow stickers had been imported from Canada, sparking a fad for them among Afghan drivers until they finally learned what the stickers symbolized and promptly scraped them off their cars.

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