Abdulrahman al-Khayyal was arrested by Saudi religious police after offering free hugs in the capital city of Riyadh. He apparently was inspired by a viral Youtube video of a fellow Saudi, Bandr al-Swed, offering free hugs. The clip has garnered nearly 1.5 million views in three days.
Al-Khayyal announced on Twitter that he was going to offer free hugs in Tahliya, one of Riyadh's main shopping streets. However, he and a friend who accompanied him were arrested by the Saudi religious police and had their "free hug" signs seized, reports The Independent.
The two were arrested for engaging in "exotic practices," and made to sign a pledge not to do it again.
Pledge notwithstanding, al-Khayyal remained defiant, saying he would continue giving out free hugs in what he considered to be an act of charity.
Strict Sharia Islamic law enforcement is not new in Saudi Arabia.
In March 2002 religious police stopped schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca because they were not wearing headscarves and black robes, nor were they accompanied by a man. As a result 15 girls died and 50 were injured.
Meanwhile in 2011 an Australian, Mansor Almaribe, was sentenced to 2 years in jail and 500 lashes after allegedly insulting friends of the founder of Islam, Mohammed. The Australian reports that Almaribe eventually was imprisoned for 2 months and given 75 lashes.
Bandr al-Swed's viral Youtube campaign can be seen here: