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

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


  1. Posted January 22, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Those auxiliary police seem to be out of work. They need to be a little bit more creative, closing a dinosaur exhibition is just going to low!

  2. @eightyc
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink


    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!

    • Posted January 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t Mohammed ascend to Heaven on a pteranodon?


      • microraptor
        Posted January 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        I thought it was on Snoopy’s doghouse after evading the Red Baron.

      • @eightyc
        Posted January 23, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        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

  3. Bonzodog
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    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 ….

  4. Sastra
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    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.

  5. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Prominent economist calls to quash cats in New Zealand

    • Hempenstein
      Posted January 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      If you’re in favor of the Burmese python hunt in FL, you have to at least be sympathetic to this one.

  6. Rain
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    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.

  7. Woof
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Point & laugh, 21st century Saudis, point & laugh. But keep your heads down!

  8. Posted January 22, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    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

    • marycanada FCD
      Posted January 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      +1 ….very nice

  9. microraptor
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    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.

    • Pray Hard
      Posted January 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Precisely …

    • Posted January 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      The first was my thought also.


  10. alexandra
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    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.

  11. Pray Hard
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    As ludicrous as this is, it’s better than them beating up young women for glancing at young men.

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      What a relief! I do hope the young women continue refraining from glancing at young men.

    • neil
      Posted January 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the young women get beaten up because the young men glanced at them.

      • Jaime Ospina
        Posted January 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        The young women just keep asking for it. They are sinners.

      • lisa
        Posted January 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        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)

  12. Hempenstein
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Delighted to read those responses!

  13. Posted January 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    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.

    • gravelinspector
      Posted January 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      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.

  14. Steve In Oakland
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Religion is the same backwards entity, whatever it is called, and wherever it is.

    • Jim Bradley
      Posted January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      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

  15. Jim Bradley
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

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

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] was alerted to this news via a blog that I follow by the evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne. Coyne’s interest comes from his concern about the suppression of science that is sometimes […]

  2. […] (vía Why Evolution Is True) […]

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