May 02, 2002

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) - The Saudi government is cracking down on factories producing prohibited versions of women's cloaks that violate religious rules, a Saudi government-controlled newspaper said Thursday.

Cloaks found to be in violation of the rules ``will be confiscated and destroyed, while punitive measures will be taken against their owners,'' the English-language Arab News newspaper quoted Abdul Ali bin Ibrahim Abdul Aali, in charge of combatting trade fraud in the conservative Gulf kingdom, as saying.

Aali said that the ministry is working with the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to enforce the crackdown on factories producing the ``non-regulation'' garments, which are becoming increasingly popular in large Saudi cities, the newspaper reported.

It was not clear when the crackdown began nor what versions of the black, head-to-toe garments were being targeted. Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.

Aali said a Saudi religious ruling requires a ``decent woman's'' cloak to be thick and non-revealing, not body hugging, and devoid of decorations or markings that would attract public attention, the newspaper said. In conservative Saudi Arabia, women are veiled and covered head-to-toe in black in public and are not allowed to travel without the approval of their husband or father.

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