Saudi religious police close dinosaur exhibit, locals fight back on Twitter

January 22, 2013 • 8:36 am

According to the Economist, the religious police of Saudi Arabia have shut down a dinosaur exhibit in a shopping mall:

A lady in Dammam, the hub of the oil industry on the kingdom’s Gulf coast, tweeted a complaint from a local shopping mall. Agents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), she said, were causing an unpleasant scene. The government-salaried vigilantes, a bearded auxiliary police force familiarly known to Saudis as the Hayaa, had marched officiously into an educational exhibit featuring plaster models of dinosaurs, turned off the lights and ordered everyone out, frightening children and alarming their parents.

It was unclear precisely why the religious police objected to the exhibit, which apparently had been innocently featured at shopping centres across the Gulf for decades. Malls are one of the few public spaces where Saudis mix socially, and so often draw the Hayaa’s attentions. Gone, however, are the days when its agents can go about their business unchallenged.

Yep, it was Twitter, and the results were hilarious—tons of ridicule:

Maybe it was just a temporary measure, said another, until the Hayaa can separate male and female dinosaurs and put them in separate rooms. Surely, declared a third, one of the lady dinosaurs had been caught in public without a male guardian. A fourth announced an all-points police alert for Barney the Dinosaur, while another suggested it was too early to judge until it was clear what the dinosaurs were wearing.

Not a few tweets cast the incident in political terms. “Why close the show?” asked one. “It’s not as if we don’t see dinosaurs in newspapers and on TV and in the government every day.” “They should go after the dinosaurs who sit on chairs,” suggested another, seconded by a tweep who advised that dinosaurs in gilt-trimmed cloaks, the garment of choice for senior sheikhs, would make a better target.

Several contributors injected bawdy innuendo into their comments. Noting that one of the displays showed a dinosaur riding on the back of another, one message declared that this was obviously sexually suggestive and possibly could be categorised as a Westernising influence. “I confess,” declared one penitent, “I saw a naked dinosaur thigh and felt aroused.” Another tweet provided this helpful tip to the suspicious CPVPV: “No, no, that long thing is a tail!”

But most of the messages singled out the religious police for ridicule. “They worried that people would find the dinosaurs more highly evolved than themselves,” explained one. “It’s the Hayaa that should be stuffed and mounted so future generations can learn about extinct animals,” quipped another. This message adopted a more pedantic tone: “Dinosaurs are a paleontological life form from an ancient geological era, and our clerics are a paleontological life form from an ancient social era.” “Hello? Stone Age? We have some of your people; can you please come and collect them?” pleaded one tweep. Another wrote: “If the dinosaurs were still alive they’d be saying, thank God for extinction.”

Is there any doubt what this shows? Beneath the humor are the women of Saudi Arabia (and presumably men, too) chafing against the ludicrous religious restrictions imposed on them by sharia law.

A shopping mall, presumably in Saudi Arabia (photo from Economist article)
A shopping mall, presumably in Saudi Arabia (photo from Economist article)

h/t: Ed Yong via Matthew Cobb

33 thoughts on “Saudi religious police close dinosaur exhibit, locals fight back on Twitter

  1. lol.

    Someone should let Ken Ham loose on those malls in Saudi Arabia.

    He’ll have those dinosaurs saddled with Jesus riding them in no time!

      1. Yah! that’d be friggin awesome!

        Imagine Mohammad riding two pteranodons up in the sky! He’d be all glorious and shit standing on them, reins in hand with his beard flowing with the wind. lol

  2. And a 10 second hunt on t’internet has this turning up:

    “B 305. Advanced Topics in Evolution (3-0-3)
    Given that the principle of evolution is a key to understanding modern biology, and in particular genomics, we will briefly cover some of the fundamentals as well as current research methods. The course will be centred around the study and discussion of the classical works by Darwin, Wallace and Lamarck as well as the contemporary literature. Each student will have to do a research project using literature studies and computational methods to critically discuss a biological argument in evolutionary biology. ”

    Guess where?

    King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

    Bastards ….

  3. You can’t make people feel isolated and powerless when they can connect to each other and to other people around the world with just a few technological ticks. The world has changed, even in Islamic theocracies. And people have not.

    I have read that one of the most significant causes of the rise of science was the invention of the printing press. Communication is key to diversity, and diversity means a wider community of contending ideas. The internet is like a printing press to the nth power.

    Welcome to the 21st century, Hayaa. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  4. Apparently dinosaur exhibits aren’t “halal” enough. Unclean animals maybe? Graven images? Who knows. All we now for sure is that the dinosaurs somehow scored a fundamentalist “Bingo” somehow. Someone needs to make some fundamentalist Bingo cards.

      1. Gravel images? If they were found in layers of gravel? I wish I had thought of fundamentalist Bingo when I was younger. I would be rolling in the dough right about now.

  5. They just can’t resist a Bullyfest. Oh well! it makes for another Ropey one anyway:

    The wealthy folk of Saudi
    such amazing choice of bling
    crystal esplanades supreme
    so up to date with everything

    Lavish splendid palisades
    adorn with condescension
    treasures won from fossil fuel
    dinosaurs one best not mention

    Dinosaurs are worrying those
    from the C-P-V-P-V
    promoting virtuous vice prevention
    where only ignorance is free

    Massive evidence of dinosaurs
    causing thought police to hustle
    imposing ludicrous restrictions
    flexing inquisition’s muscle

  6. I’m guessing that it’s one of the following: dinosaurs=evolution and therefore are bad, dinosaurs aren’t in the quoran and therefore are bad, they’re images of animals and therefore bad.

  7. NYTimes today p.A16
    Stanford Law School offers training in religious-liberty cases.
    1.6 million from Templeton Foundation via Becket fund helped launch this.
    Read it and weep….
    however Barry Lynn “is shocked” – which is expected and comforting.

      1. I guess we need to “CARE” drop some crates of “Cheap Sunglasses.” Then no one can tell who is gawking at whom. Unless the Quran forbids those, too. (Say a prayer for them, Reverend Billy)

  8. Back in the 1970s I talked to a Syrian guy who had worked in the Saudi oil industry (he was upset over the segregated bathrooms — Europeans versus Arabs). He was clearly angry about the Saudi religious police. He said bitterly “those are the guys you have to go to get a prostitute”. Pious lot.

    1. He said bitterly “those are the guys you have to go to get a prostitute”.

      [“Tales from the oilfield”, #457 in a continuing series of barrel-dredgings.]
      Be very, very careful to specify what sort of prostitute you want, in terms of gender, sex organs and species. Genus even. No, seriously!
      Then check what actually arrives before trusting them to have what you wanted under the niqab.

    1. Continuous negative judgement turns off the ability to see the world as it is.

      Far more interesting to find out how and why people believe things. On that note, I am still amazed that some on this board have no idea that science starts with it’s own set of assumptions, largely rejected as a way of “universal truth” but accepted as a way of “particular truth”. For example, see

  9. I wonder what overall percent are dissatisfied. Can’t tell much from social media when a large percent don’t participate.

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