Saudi cleric terms women Shura Members prostitutes; receives flak #Vaw


Monday February 25, 2013 10:26:16 AM, Agencies

 

For the first time, women will represent 10 percent of the 150 seats of the Saudi Shura, or consultative council, in the coming legislative term, Xinhua reported.> A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Dubai: A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Derogatory terms such as “prostitutes” and “the filth of society” were used to describe the female academics and technocrats who were sworn into the Council a few days after a highly-acclaimed Royal Decree was issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Al Arabiya reported Sunday.

The tweets quickly became widely-spread through the social media network and rapidly developed their own hash-tags; however, many Saudi tweeps condemned the attack on the female Shura members, especially since they came from figures who are supposed to preach tolerance, compassion and respect, the report added.

Among the clerics who resorted to insults was member of the Islamic Ministry for Da’wah, Guidance and Endowments, Ahmed Al-Abedul-Qader expressed his discontent of women partaking a role in the Shura Council over his Tweeter account, “They thought they can mock the mufti by giving these ‘prostitutes’ legitimacy to be in power. I am not an imposter, and imposters do not fool me. For how long will the forts of virtues be torn down?”, according to Al Arabiya.

Following angry reactions by Twitter users, Qader said: “We have heard and read many insults against (God) as well as mockery against the prophet, prayer be upon him, and none of those defending (these female) members was angered.”

For his part, Dr. Saleh al-Sugair, a former teaching assistant at King Saud University slammed the assignment of female members at the council and tweeted: “The insolent (women) wearing make-up at the Shura Council represent the society? God, no. They are the filth of society.”

His tweet reads: “The fools of the Shura council, these immodest women represent the society? I swear by God’s name they do not. They are society’s scum, garbage.”

This wasn’t the first controversial statement al-Sugair، who is not a cleric but a medical doctor known for extreme religious views.

Last year, he called for a complete separation in medical colleges between male students and female students.

He spoke on what appeared to be a religious program saying “ why do you need to employ females when we have unemployed males who are providing for their families” and he added “what is the point of having a male doctor with a female secretary?”

He insisted that there is no need to have female receptionists in hospitals and especially in male sections.

Sugair has over 40 thousand followers on twitter and is known for advocating against women employment, women driving, and women treating male patients.

However, the backlash to the recent statements regarding the Shura Council appointees was severe.

Author Maha al-Shahri tweeted: “(These statements) are a moral crime. The government has to set laws to (teach) them and their likes (morals).”

Doctor Abdelrahman al-Sobeyhi tweeted: “Every disease has a medicine to heal it except stupidity.”

Another user, Ali Abdelrahman, wrote: “This is ignorance that does not belong to Islam.”

“The problem is that they think they have immunity from God!” another twitter user said.

A royal decree last month amended two articles in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.

The council was sworn in last week.

The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king – and until recently were exclusively male – works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws which would be presented to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.

Previously, the European Union has welcomed Saudi King Abdullah’s recent decree allowing women to be members of in the kingdom’s Shura Council for the first time as a major development in the direction of women empowerment.

“We welcome the announcement made by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday Jan. 11 to appoint 30 women to the country’s previously all-male Shura Council,” according to statement by Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the European Commission.

 

Saudi Arabia’s Rosa Parks helps women speak up #womenrights


The rights movement may not have achieved much in terms of legislative reform, but it has given women a platform to voice their views
    • By Mona Kareem | Special to Gulf News
    • Published: 20:00 August 3, 2012

Since the 1990s, Saudi women have been demanding the right to drive cars, travel alone, and abolish the male guardianship system. The struggle was limited to certain women from less conservative communities. After the Arab Spring, with the driving campaign, Saudi women were able to make their demands heard through a larger number of people involved and with the help of media exposure; western and Arab. It was believed that they were leading what can be called a ‘Saudi spring’.

Right after the Egyptian uprising, Saudi women worked online under the name ‘Saudi Women Revolution’ and although they started with bigger demands that sought radical changes to their status, gradually, the mild voices among them were able to dominate because they were less controversial and ‘more reasonable’, as some claim. Women were arrested and this was the easiest way to create leaders that exclusively were able to define the movement and its direction. A good example of that is Manal Al Sharif.

What has the movement achieved so far? Nothing when it comes to legislation, but a lot when it comes to having more women getting involved and speaking up. King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz promised that in the coming municipal elections (that have no set date) women would be able to contest and vote. The decision did not state whether those who wished to run for election needed permission from their male guardians.

Once again, women fall under the power of men and stay second class citizens. Eventually, this results in having a women’s rights movement that is limited to families who are less conservative and more educated; a movement that unintentionally excludes many women of low-class, and of conservative families.

The Saudi women’s movement has generated criticism. Several young voices have realised that the movement cannot contribute much if it stays limited to basic demands led by working women from the middle class. Some called on women to join male activists who are calling for reform in the kingdom, believing that the process of a true democracy is expected to grant women their rights and cannot be limited to changes within the political system.

Last year, people were drawing comparisons between historical movements and the movement by the Saudi women. A good example is the comparison with the civil rights movement in the US and how Al Sharif could be the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia. What such examples neglected, however, is how African-American women were fighting not only for their rights as women, but first, as people of colour experiencing racism.

Right now, many African-American women have been active, highlighting different issues related to violations of their rights as women and as women of colour. However, at that time, there was no possible way, no open space, for them to fight separately and work in a feminist movement not concerned with the rights of black people.

Lessons to learn

Global historical examples, especially western, might not be the closest to the Saudi example considering the cultural, social, political, and time differences. I recall how many Saudi women used to say that they were not aiming ‘too high’ for the time-being, but were asking to have the same rights that their Gulf counterparts had achieved, and specifically what Kuwaiti women had achieved.

The latter have always been socially involved, enjoying a greater level of freedom. They were able to get their political rights in 2005 and won four seats in the parliament three years ago.

In the Kuwaiti example, if there is a lesson to learn, it is that female activists were fighting for their rights without neglecting the calls for political reform. For decades, during elections, women were somehow involved in campaigns of candidates in an attempt to have those representatives support their demands. During the Iraqi invasion, women were part of the resistance and several of them were killed. Within academia, business, arts, media, and governmental work, Kuwaiti women were also present. It was a matter of time before Kuwaiti women attained their political rights after being able to co-exist in society and in the political struggle for a better democracy.

Having Saudi women drive cars was a good way to get attention and make a point. There was a line and it was crossed but there are other lines that need to be crossed in order to keep the women’s movement alive. If this movement decides not to get politically involved and surrenders to its icons to control it, then we will eventually witness the death of another Saudi women’s movement that was not able to comprehend the situation and work within the current political context.

 

Mona Kareem is a Kuwait-born blogger, writer and poet based in New York.

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