Tuesday, August 07, 2007


RIYADH, 6 August 2007—A new convert to Islam, fired with zeal to do a righteous act, had no idea that he would pay a heavy price for helping a sick woman, one that has landed him 50 days and counting behind bars. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice found him guilty for committing a crime: Being in the presence of a woman who is not a relative (a so-called “illegal state of seclusion”).

Arab News tried several times to contact Ahmed Al-Jardan, spokesman for the commission, but phone calls were not returned. A written fax sent to the commission’s main center asking for comment was also ignored.

Ibrahim Mohammed Lawal, a Nigerian student of Islamic studies at Badiya Islamic Center in Riyadh, learned that his neighbor, a 63-year-old woman, was indisposed and needed medical attention. So he took her to various hospitals in Riyadh, including the Riyadh Medical Complex at Shumaisy, all of which refused to treat her. It was only after the intervention of Sheikh Fawaz, director of Badiya Islamic Center, that the Badiya Hospital admitted the case. Despite the charitable act Mohammed ended up in detention, accused of immoral behavior because he was neither married nor related by blood to the elderly woman.

Speaking to Arab News on phone from his cell in the Malaz prison, Mohammed said that after the woman received treatment and after he returned to Riyadh after three days in the Western Region, he was arrested after checking up on the woman’s health. In the woman’s apartment were three other women related to her.


“I wanted to do a good thing for a woman who was sick, and this is what I get in return,” he said. “I lost the support of my family in Nigeria, where my wife and children are upset with me—and here I am languishing in prison.”

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