Saudi Arabian Man Arrested by Religious Police for 'Free Hugs' Campaign

| by Courtney Nunes

A Saudi Arabian man who was inspired by a “free hugs” video on Youtube decided to take to the streets with a campaign of his own. However, his attempt was not nearly as successful, and he was ultimately arrested by religious police.

Abdulrahman al-Khayyal, 21, took the idea from a popular video of Bandr al-Swed holding a “free hugs” banner and hugging random young men on the street. The viral video reportedly received more than a million views within the first three days it was posted.

Inspired by the campaign, al-Khayyal posted on Twitter that he would be offering free hugs to passersby in Tahliya, one of the main shopping streets in the capital city of Riyadh.

When religious police were notified of the practice, they immediately arrested both men.

Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice cited the two men for violating local laws and taking part in “exotic practices.”

In Saudi Arabia, religious police are required to enforce Islamic principles and dress codes, along with a strict set of dietary rules. According to The Independent, these same officials are authorized to stop nonrelated men and women from socializing with each other, and to prohibit any acts of prostitution or homosexual activity.

The two men were required to sign an agreement pledging to never go out and take part in such activity ever again. However, al-Khayyal told The Independent that he was proud of what he had done and that he plans to continue the “free hugs” campaign.

Sources: Mirror Online, The Independent