Saudi clerics square off over gender mixing

By Paul Handley (AFP)
4th May 2010

RIYADH — Conservative Muslim Saudi Arabia’s battle over men and women freely mixing mounted on Tuesday as a powerful Islamic judge rebuked a hardline cleric over his attacks on anti-segregationist reformers.

In a column published on a website for judges, Riyadh criminal court judge Sheikh Issa al-Ghaith lashed out at cleric Abdul Rahman al-Barrak for his sweeping condemnation of anyone advocating lifting the country’s draconian Islamic laws against fraternisation between unrelated men and women.

“What does it mean to issue fatwas (Islamic edicts) that are difficult to implement and statements which make people go away?” Ghaith said.

“Anyone who disagrees is accused of hypocrisy and branded a hypocrite,” he said of conservatives’ views.

While Ghaith did not mention him by name, it was clear he was speaking about Barrak, one of the country’s leading conservative scholars, who in February labelled opponents of gender segregation as infidels who should be killed.

On Monday, Ghaith expressed similar sentiments in a direct response to a letter Barrak wrote last week that mixing constituted rebelling against god.

The letter was addressed to Ghaith, Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa and the head of the Mecca religious police, Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, whose open pro-mixing stance got him fired and then mysteriously reinstated in late April.

Barrak called for the three to “Fear God! Do not be keys to evil.” He said they should resist the “so-called liberation of women,” which he likened to colonialism.

In other countries, he said, “This rebelling against God’s rules leads to widespread mixing between men and women, the worst of which is seen in education and places of work. It is also manifested in the opening of cinemas, and dancing and singing halls.”

The exchange reflected rising tensions between religious conservatives, who dominate justice and education in the oil-rich kingdom, and increasingly vocal reformers who want to end the ultra-strict laws controlling women.

Under Saudi Arabia’s harsh Wahhabi version of Islam, women are not allowed to go out without guardians; unrelated men and women cannot go to restaurants together; they are separated in offices; and women are not permitted to drive.

But the debate was ignited last year when King Abdullah inaugurated a new international science university near the Red Sea commercial city of Jeddah where men and women students and faculty freely work together.

The debate was spiced up on Friday when numerous newspapers published a photograph of the king surrounded by three dozen women at a conference held several weeks earlier.

Ghaith said on Monday that Barrak was “raising discord” and “inciting brother against brother,” invoking the king in his argument.

“We are an Islamic state and Islamic law is applied to all walks of life. Our ruler King Abdullah has done his duty well. So we are required to listen and obey,” Ghaith said.

  1. #1 by good coolie on Wednesday, 5 May 2010 - 11:05 pm

    The Saudi king’s opening of a co-ed university is a quantum leap for the kingdom. Things will continue to change!

  2. #2 by tak tahan on Wednesday, 5 May 2010 - 11:22 pm

    Religion is a religion.It should not be politicised for any political or individual purpose as well as race concerns.How can we teach our society to be good if we politicised religion and race issue into this-ketuanan race,gender and blah blah.This bolehland is a real cartoon country and a big laughing stock bigger tahan Mr bean and ect.Beh tahan

  3. #3 by cemerlang on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 12:01 am

    A female has a brain too, created by Allah.

  4. #4 by frankyapp on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 12:55 am

    God created Adam and later Eve,not to let Adam bully or lord over her but for him to love and respect her and to multiply to fill the earth with men and women. Tragic indeed,how in the muslim world,men came to dominate and bully women. And indeed a great pity too how women allowed themselves to be controled,bullied and segregated from various activities within their own society.The creator seeing the female/Eve whom he created is being bullied,ill treated and segregated must be crying with deep grief.Which father won’t not when seeing his own daughter is being bullied and ill treated ?

  5. #5 by monsterball on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 1:19 am

    Islam is the greatest religion in modern days…because it has the greatest amount of non educated followers….and that religion control the weak minds…to be peaceful and humane like.
    Like all other religions…there are so many interpretations of their holy book.
    Particularly in Middle East…corrupted rulers and governments are using the religion to divert attentions from their corrupted lifestyle.
    People getting more and more educated have no choice but to become hypocritical and insincere they cannot denounce it’s faith and accept another religion.
    To be a Muslim…one cannot denounce it..and go for another. It’s a religion managed by hard task masters..for the weak and uneducated minds…OK…but when millions are awakened and well educated…some will rebel and want to be free…and it starts by confronting the government of that country.
    UMNO B is copying exactly like the Arabs….on this path for Islamic religion. And Arabs are wellknown hypocrites and corrupted lot.
    Indonesia…government..does practices freedom of religion…thus is not influenced by the Arab governments at all. Alot of Arabs ran away from Middle East..start a business and live in Indonesia more than Malaysia…shows the said Arabs know UMNO B government is no different from the one they ran away from.
    To say in a but shell…Islamic religion sucks…because it is managed mostly by corrupted governments and so call holy leaders…all over the world..leading the people to be fanatical and narrow minded living dead humans.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 2:54 am

    The evil minded Mahathir copied all the evil things that man do to human beings.
    He is simply the smartest crook on Earth…to play with his so call claimed race…the Malays…who feels more and more insecured depending on UMNO B.
    He applied British famous …to divide and rule.
    He showed what a great Muslim he pointing fingers on the US government….obvious double standards…and catch them on the balls
    This is his first finest crooked political art …to accused others…..before others accuses him..of the same thing.
    But one thing he dare not talk…is CORRUPTIONS.
    He dare not sue anyone calling him a crook too.
    He dare not sue..because he is a real crook….period.
    Likewise…Najib dare not sue Balan..because he is a real murderer.
    As he build up his devilish acts…he stole billions.
    Building mega projects…nothing hard to do…to con every Malaysians…with all those No:1 buildings in the world..tallest towers…biggest government building….and making sure Chinese are happy….approved the longest bridge in Penang.
    All these are done to con all Malaysians…for 28 years as Dictator….and so he did as he liked…outwardly squandered and cheat Malaysians wholesale..with no fear….for he found a legal way to do commissions and overpriced tenders..make big profits…not cheating..when you pay taxes legally to. So he benefited and the government too.
    Malaysians should know how UMNO B operate.
    They hero worship Arab crooked Kings and government…and read histories of British and USA well….master the English language…for their trully evil minded intentions.
    Yes…Mahathir jump started all things evil in Malaysia….and Najib can never change.for changes means sure lost in 13th GE.
    With no change and try his style to con all Malaysians…deep inside…Najib must copy wholesale Mahathir’s style…..for he is as corrupted as anyone one…plus Atlantayu death….hangs on his head. He can protect himself not going to court and a jail a murderer…as long as UMNO B stays in power.
    He has so much at stake….and Malaysians must not be fooled by him.
    The moment Najib feels he ..cannot win the 13th GE….just watch his cruel by one…out again.
    55 years under UMNO is enough.
    Why are UMNO B supporters afraid of changes for the better?

  7. #7 by cemerlang on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 5:24 am

    Too many self righteous modern pharisees.

  8. #8 by chengho on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 7:17 am

    we are bless living in Malaysia not Indonesia…

  9. #9 by dagen on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 9:15 am

    Islam should not just be about praying five times a day, restricting women and jihad. I believe that there are science, engineering and even sports in islam. Bring them out. Muslims must show the world the dynamic side of the religion.

  10. #10 by on cheng on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 10:18 pm

    [we are bless living in Malaysia not Indonesia, ]Really??
    Indonesia of 1990 or 2010 or 2020??
    In 2010, They don’t hv ketuanan XXX, NEP, their TV can talk on buddhism, christianity, hinduism etc, Can V hv that? They can installed satellite dish easily, Can V?
    Their paper can criticize their govt leaders without getting into trouble, can V?
    Go to Jakarta n hv a look yourself

  11. #11 by on cheng on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 10:26 pm

    A country which sidelined 50% of the brains of their citizen, is not going to progress much, whether the sidelined 50% is female citizen or their same citizen, but somehow sidelined!

  12. #12 by on cheng on Thursday, 6 May 2010 - 10:28 pm

    Indonesia car price is much lower, is Msia high car price also a blessing, En. Chengho??

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