For someone who would probably enjoy the lifestyle of a caveman, Shaikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak has an impressive ability to occasionally make news headlines with his ridiculous, albeit dangerous, fatwas. His latest fatwa called for opponents of the kingdom’s strict segregation of men and women to be put to death if they refuse to abandon their ideas.
Some people think the best way to deal with this fatwa is to simply ignore it, because the more media attention it gets the more weight it will carry. I disagree. It might be true that al-Barrak is an old man who is still living in the past, but failing to address his fatwa might lead to serious consequences. This guy has a loyal following who admire him and regard his opinions highly.
What if one of his enthusiastic fans decided to act upon this fatwa and killed somebody? What if someone from those who spoke in favor of mixing like justice minister Shaikh Mohammed al-Eisa, Shaikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, or Shaikh Ahmed Bin Baz got killed over this?
That is unlikely to happen, but it remains a possibility nevertheless. As Ebtihal Mubarak tweeted earlier today, “there is a huge number of unemployed men who are agitated, and it’s easy to rally them using the argument that the government is focusing on women and mixing of genders while ignoring them.”
I think all those concerned should speak out against this fatwa and denounce al-Barrak. The official religious establishment, namely the Council of Senior Ulema, should take a stand and make a statement here. But based on their recent history with the mixing at KAUST drama, I’m pretty sure they won’t say a single word about this.
I hate to repeat myself, but here is what I said two years ago when al-Barrak released another one of his insane fatwas:
I can imagine that neither the government nor the official religious establishment would speak out on this issue, but if they fail to address this properly then they should stop whining about extremism and how terrorists are simply a “misguided group.” It is this kind of dangerous messages that feed extremism and donate fuel to terrorists to continue their lethal destructive acts. Keeping silent and later blaming “external influences” for what happens here will be a hard sell…
Before KAUST, segregation was the norm and mixing was haraam. Then KAUST happened, and suddenly mixing turns out to be okay. Al-Shethri opened his mouth. He was sacked. The others got the message.
The new Minister of Justice explained in detail how segregation is a foreign concept and mixing is actually cool. Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, head of haya’a in Makkah, gave a lengthy interview to Okaz where he basically said that there is nothing wrong with mixing and those who oppose it are opposing Sharia. Meanwhile, his organization continue to terrorize people in other parts of the country.
Clown Mohammed al-Nujaimi before KAUST was inaugurated stressed the importance of segregation in education, something he described as one of the fundamentals on which the Saudi state was built. Few weeks later, after al-Shethri was sacked, he took a full U-turn.
Problem is, apologists like Jamal Khashoggi now have to make up lies to make this sounds normal. Mixing at KAUST is very restricted, he says, that a Venezuelan student can’t have his Mexican female friend over at his place.
Is that true, Nathan? I know you threw a nice Thanksgiving party earlier this year, and from the pics I can see you had some girls over. I hope you didn’t get any trouble after that party.
So confusion prevails. In the past we were told mixing is sinful. Now we are told it is alright. Those who don’t want to appear contradicted talk about good mixing and bad mixing. Are we supposed to believe the “mixers,” the “segregationists,” or the “hypocrites”? Such a dilemma…
In my post last February on women’s employment I asked if whether we were moving towards more regulation or more segregation. According to a directive issued last week by Prince Khaled al-Faisal, Governor of Mecca, I guess regulation it is.
The directive, which was published in local media last Wednesday, is based on a letter sent by Labor Minister Ghazi al-Gosaibi who emphasized that the new labor law has deleted the clause banning women from working in mixed workplaces, and replaced it with a new clause that applies to both genders stating that “both the employer and employee must adhere to the law in conformity with Sharia.”
Now this last statement may sound vague and ill-defined, but it is still worthy of attention because the letter also affirmed that the Ministry of Labor is the government’s body responsible for regulating women’s working and that any involvement by other government’s bodies is unacceptable, in what seems to be a hint to the Commission and their sympathizers who keep nosing into these issues.
However, and as we have previously seen many times in the magic kingdom, writing laws is one thing and implementing them is quite another, especially when you don’t have an elected parliament to monitor the performance of government and question them when they fail to achieve their announced goals.
It was Ghazi al-Gosaibi who has tried three years ago to make working in women’s shops limited to Saudi women before he had to back down after fierce opposition by conservatives. What is different this time, though, is that he is not fighting alone. The support of Khaled al-Faisal, a figure many conservatives hate as much as they hate al-Gosaibi, could be the push the government need to put the laws in effect. It remains to be seen how crucial is this support will be.
UPDATE: In his column in Al Hayat today Abdul-Aziz al-Suwaid makes a good point about the vagueness of the law, asking MOL to define clear guidelines to protect women should they come under harassment. I totally agree.
For some reason, Arab News chooses not to name KSU when they write about the stifling restrictions Saudi Arabia’s oldest university impose on their female students. Considering how this country is obsessed with segregation, there is no surprise here. And the ironic thing is, they say the university “is supposed to be a place where young women experience greater freedoms.” Says who? Wake up girls! This is freakin’ K of SA you are living in. The university, as you may expect, claim that the point of these restrictions is to protect the students. Again, no surprise. Welcome to Saudi Arabia, where everyone claims moral authority over the rest.
In the other hand, the newspaper chooses to name another university in Riyadh, Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, which supposedly is even more strict than KSU. It is said that IMSIU is to launch a new college of medicine, but according to Ali Al Mousa in Al Watan daily, the university president could not answer the question of whether female students would be accepted in the new college. Al Mousa tends to cut the president some slack because answering that question might put him in confrontation with the extremists who would, for sure, use the ‘segregation’ card. Let’s wait and see how this drama is going to play out.
And in case you didn’t know, the extremists are not only controlling the campuses in Saudi Arabia, but they also managed to extend their notorious control to the press in neighboring Kuwait, where this article by Dalaa’ Al Mufti was banned from Al Qabas daily, apparently because Al Mufti dared to comment on the ridiculous decision of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to spend SR 700,000 on a study that examines the mingling of the sexes and its “harmful effects” on the society. I’ve told you that these people are obsessed, right?