Recent night-time pictures of the White House illuminated in rainbow colours, plus millions of rainbow-tinted profile photos on Facebook, have alerted Saudi Arabia's religious police to a previously unrecognised peril in their midst: the discovery that "emblems of homosexuality" are on public display in the birthplace of Islam.
But fear not. The haia (or the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, as it is officially known) is swinging into action to obliterate them.
The first casualty appears to be Talaee al-Noor International Schools in Riyadh, whose building proved a bit too gaily painted for the religious police:
It has now been repainted in the colour of a blue rainbow-free sky:
Strictly speaking, the offending colours were not quite those of the customary rainbow flag or, for that matter, an actual rainbow, but they seem to have been close enough to set alarm bells ringing.
According to one of the haia's Twitter accounts, the school (which it hastens to point out is a "foreign" one) has been fined 100,000 riyals ($26,650) for "placing the emblem of the homosexuals" on display.
It adds that the person in the school who was responsible for the emblem has been taken to prison to await prosecution.
Now that Talaee al-Noor school has been dealt with, the haia might turn their attention to a product which is widely available on the internet. It's advertised as an ideal gift for Muslims and seems to be very popular in southeast Asia. Yes, it's the Rainbow Qur'an – an edition of the holy book with different sections printed in ... well, all the colours of the rainbow.
One enthusiastic purchaser writes:
"I got myself the Rainbow Quran that has been the rage all over the Southeast Asia ... I got mine from Indonesia ... I would go all out to get something pretty in terms of fashion, so a colourful Qur'an would do me just perfect! Don't get me wrong, the words in the Qur'an are already majestically beautiful, but a rainbow coloured Qur'an just adds icing to the cake."
Rainbow Qur'ans could cause quite a headache for the religious police. Presumably any copies they find will have to be confiscated. But what to do with them? Since they are believed to contain the words of God they cannot be destroyed, because that would be sacrilege. Perhaps the haia will have to find a large room where they can be locked away in perpetuity.
On a scriptural note, I have been searching the Qur'an for any mention of rainbows in its text – and apparently there is none.
The story of Noah (Nuh) and the Great Flood appears in both the Qur'an and the Bible. In the Biblical version a rainbow appears as the waters subside, and this is interpreted as a sign from God, but there is no mention of a rainbow in the Qur'anic version.
That "emblem of the homosexuals" again: sports day at Talaee al-Noor school.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Monday, 20 July 2015