“Syria: Religious Police Patrol Aleppo’s Countryside,” by Basel Dayoub for al-Akhbar, December 19 (thanks to Lachlan):
…Residents of the embattled city, whose main concerns revolve around security and survival, were shocked to hear that opposition groups who control the Aleppan countryside are deploying a vice-and-virtue police to enforce a deeply conservative interpretation of Islamic law.
Again: Islamic law as interpreted by all four Sunni madhahib (schools of jurisprudence) is remarkably similar, agreeing on about 75% of all rulings. There is no “liberal interpretation of Islamic law.” There is Islamic law, as in Saudi Arabia, and there is the non-enforcement of Islamic law and application of other legal constructs, as in Turkey (for now). In other words, it isn’t as if Turkey is applying a “liberal” form of Sharia. It isn’t enforcing Sharia at all. For now.
The opposition insists that the new force is the revolution’s version of a civilian police squad, whose primary purpose is to fight crime, particularly those committed by undisciplined members of the armed factions. In fact, there are those who support its creation for this very reason.
One local resident, for example, argued that “there were a number of transgressions committed by some Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, and this police force will punish those involved — their door is open to whoever wants to lodge a complaint. We shouldn’t judge them before we”ve tried them.”
Then, rumors began to circulate that such a formation was patrolling the streets of the town of al-Bab in Aleppo’s countryside and herding people into mosques during prayer time and preventing women from driving cars. The opposition quickly denied the news.
They insisted that the picture of a religious police office circulating on the Internet was taken in Saudi Arabia and attributed to the opposition to tarnish its reputation. Regime loyalists responded by taking several pictures of the office from different angles to establish its location.
Then, rumors began to circulate that such a formation was herding people into mosques during prayer time and preventing women from driving cars.
The following day, the so-called Revolutionary Military Council in Aleppo issued a statement banning women from driving. The group also released several video clips showing men of various Arab nationalities patrolling the streets and forcing people to pray….
Samer Othman also defended the creation of such a force, noting that their primary role is “to pursue criminals, thieves, and those who drink alcohol — the focus on preventing women from driving is merely to cover up all these positive aspects.”