Lady Jamileh Kharrazi:
Saudi Arabia was placed on a UN Commission for Women last Wednesday.
This occurred amid significant protest from women’s groups. “Saudi discrimination against women is gross and systematic in law and in practice,” said the director of the human rights group UN Watch, Hillel Neuer.
Sadly, the country has a dismal record on women’s rights in recent decades. (Daily Caller)
The commission is for the “Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women”
Outside organizations have been harsh towards the country. In 2015, The World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia 134 out of 145 in its “Global Gender Gap Index.” The index looks at the outcome gap between men and women. These gaps occur at work, school, in politics and in health. (WEF)
Wahhabi and the Saudis
According to Jamileh Kharrazi, the ways women are treated stem from religious faith. Saudi Arabia follows a sect of the Muslim religion.
This sect is called “Wahhabi.” This set of beliefs is quite new. The sect has only been around for a few hundred years. It seeks to purge Sunni Islam of idol worship and is very intolerant of “impurities.”
In Saudi Arabia, they have applied a set of rules called the Sharia. To apply the rules, they divided the means of ruling into two parts. First, the ahl al-Shaykh is in charge of religion. Second, the ahl al-Saud is in charge of the state.
Importantly, many Muslims disagree with the Wahhabi Sharia. Vitally, the Quran states ““All people are equal, as equal as the teeth of a comb.” Those with this stance tend to believe the only way for one person to be better than another is through piety. (Morocco World News)
Tragically, the sect has grown more extreme over time. Recently, a Wahhabbi professor Yusuf Al-Ahmed even said that women should be separated during the Tawaf. This is the ritual of walking around the Ka’ba. This is a cube-shaped building in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca – Islam’s holiest site. The practice had been done with both sexes since its start.
Muslims take part in the Tawaf of Kaaba. Some have called for gender separation in the ancient ritual.
The Saudi Sharia Rules
In Saudi Arabia, there are two sources for rules. The first is the Council of Senior Scholars, which issue Fatwas. The second is the state, which can issue laws. Fatwas are religious rules, such as not allowing children to play Pokemon Go. (ABCNews) Oddly, they made this rule because it promotes “Zionism and Gambling.” They want to protect the religious faith of children.
Fatwas are “religious opinions” that can act as guides. Fatwas and social laws are enforced by the Mutawa, or “religious police.” Officially, they have been told not to arrest people. The government even told them to be gentle and humane. (BBC)
Despite this, three men were arrested in 2016 for playing Pokemon go. The Fatwa that had been issued said to play Pokemon Go was the same as gambling. (Fortune) it is unclear what their fate will be.
Women and the State
Many Fatwas and religious laws have been passed in order to control women according to Jamileh Kharrazi. Saudis claim that every part of the woman is sexually provocative. Sadly, this has become the reason that women are covered from head to toe in black.
Women have many restrictions. They are not allowed to drive or to do vital tasks without a male guardian, called a “wali.” This guardian has many powers over the woman. Their consent is needed for marriage, and sometimes need to give permission for women to travel. The role of the wali is different in different places.
Religious police harass a woman for buying nail polish.
Recently, political participation for women has become law. In 2015, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to vote and run for political office.
“It feels great,” Hatoon al-Fassisaid said as she voted, with a huge smile. “This is a historical moment. I thank God I am living it.” She has been pushing for this day for more than a decade. (BBC)
In those elections, 29 women were elected to council seats. Many hold high posts in colleges and in other organizations. (Al Arabiya)