Screen grab of the video posted on YouTube
Screen grab of the video posted on YouTube
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An altercation between a young Saudi woman and an agent of the country's morality police over her nail polish in a Riyadh mall has stirred a public debate in the Middle Eastern kingdom, the Saudi Gazette reported on Saturday.

In a video the woman recorded of the incident and posted on YouTube, she can be heard demanding the agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and P revention of Vice to leave her alone, as they instruct her to leave the mall at once.

“Why are you chasing me? The government said no more chasing! Your duty is to advise people… why are you looking at my manicure? I will never leave the mall!” she can be heard saying in the video.

Later in the video, the woman asked mall security to intervene in the incident and to get the morality police to stop harassing her. The security guards refused to do so, instructing the youth to listen to the agent, who they know to be "a good man."

The video went viral, the Gazette reported, with many Saudis posting comments in support of the youth and against her conduct. An official investigation into the incident by the commission will be opened, the newspaper said.

Last year, Saudi women staged several protests defying a Saudi ban on women driving under the Women2Drive campaign, in which videos of women driving were posted on Facebook and Twitter in protest at the ban.  

The Saudi ruling family, which oversees Islam's holiest sites, draws its legitimacy from the backing of the kingdom's religious establishment, which follows a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. While Saudi King Abdullah has pushed for some changes on women's rights, he is cautious not to push too hard against the clerics. Last year, Abdullah promised to implement some reforms related to women's rights, including allowing women to vote in municipal elections in 2015

In October, Saudi Arabia named a new heir to the throne, Prince Nayef, who is a former interior minister and considered to hold traditionalist views, although he had led crackdowns against suspected Islamic extremists. His selection appeared to embolden the ultraconservative clerics to challenge any sweeping social reforms.