Saudi Religious Police Beat Briton Who Paid at Women-only Cash Register

YouTube video shows long-time British resident of Riyadh attacked by police outside a supermarket; investigation reportedly opened into the incident.

Religious police in Saudi Arabia beat up a Briton who resides in Riyadh after he paid a female cashier, according to reports in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic law, including segregation of men and women. The Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice − the official title of the religious police, which was established in Saudi Arabia in 1940 − is a statutory body with broad powers, and members of the commission enforce strict sex segregation. 

In a short video that was uploaded to YouTube Sunday, a religious police agent is seen getting out of his car and attacking the British man. In the video, the man is with a woman wearing a black cloak, called an abaya, who stands up for him, AFP said.

In the video, the British man is heard shouting, "That's my wife, how dare you"?"

Witnesses told the newspaper Al-Hayat that police stopped the man in a supermarket after he paid at a women-only cash register. He told police that he was with his wife at the time.

Even if accompanied by a woman, however, a man cannot pay at a women-only cash desk, AFP said. Men can stop at the desk with a female relative, but only the woman can interact with the female cashier.

When the Briton left the store, religious police started shooting video of his car. Then he filmed them too, according to the Al-Hayat report. 

The man then refused to give his camera to police. The officers "attacked and pushed him to the ground," witnesses told Al-Hayat.

According to Al-Hayat, the man's name is Peter Haworth. He is a Muslim convert married to a Saudi Arabian woman, who has been living in the kingdom for years, the daily said. The altercation ended with a British Embassy vehicle driving him away from the scene, AFP said, citing the newspaper. 

According to Al-Hayat, the religious police, unofficially known as Mutawaa, is investigating the incident.