Womens Rights in Saudi Arabia - Arab News, Saudi Arabia
- Womens Rights in Saudi Arabia
Raid Qusti rqusti@...
On Sunday, a radio program on MBC caught my attention.
The topic was Womens Rights in Saudi Arabia. The
guest speaking on that topic was Nahed Bashatah, a
freelance journalist. Mrs. Bashatah started talking
about how women played a vital role in society during
the days of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
How the Prophet for example, consulted his wives on
matters that concerned the nation and how after the
death of the Prophet his companions used to seek the
advice of Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) in
religious and social matters. All we need to do is to
look back at our history and see how Muslim women
played a vital role in life, she said.
She went on to say how Saudi women have come a long
way and how their potentials and skills have gone
global. But Mrs. Bashatah did say that there are still
much to be done regarding womens rights in Saudi
The first call came from a listener from Riyadh who
did not mention her name and only referred to herself
as Umm Omar. She said Mrs. Bashatah was talking
nonsense and was not serving Saudi women at all. She
said it was completely false to say that Saudi women
were not enjoying their full rights. They have gone
into every single field possible; in education, in
medicine... They enjoy their full rights in Saudi
Arabia as provided by Islam, and to say otherwise
would be foolish. Name a single country in the world
where women receive their full rights and are honored
as in Saudi Arabia. Mrs. Bashatah said: I wish she
could see how society treats divorcees and widows
Another call came from Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Gasim, a
religious scholar. The sheikh said that Saudi women in
general were not aware of their full rights. He
mentioned for example the right to choose a spouse;
the right to be divorced by Islamic law from a man
should he mistreat her or deprive her of her rights,
including sexual rights. He said that when Saudi women
sue for divorce, it often takes up to eight months for
the process to finish. In some cases, the judge
refuses to accept the reasons, and in some he takes
the mans side. But the sheikh also elaborated on the
mixing of the sexes and how dangerous that was,
especially at work, which could give a man the
opportunity to be alone with a woman, which is
forbidden in Islam.
The radio program finished faster than I thought, and
I was left contemplating about how a large part of
Saudi society is still reluctant to change.
Bold Saudi women who touch upon topics such as the
status of women in our country, which is probably the
most sensitive of all, are often branded as liberal,
secular, brainwashed and immodest and other
things it would be immodest to mention here. The
pressure they have to bear is horrendous. Many
websites sponsored by Saudis name their e-mail
addresses and encourage people to harass them for what
they write. The fact that these women have to put up
with some resistance from their own gender only adds
more misery to their problems. There are those here
who actively resist the governments call for womens
development on all levels. These people want women to
live in the Stone Age.
Some might think that women were only created to serve
men, to give birth to children, and to raise them, and
that anything beyond that is Western decadence. They
do not want women to open their eyes and broaden their
horizons and realize that they have been deprived of
rights given to them by their religion. Among those
rights, as our king said, is the right to take part in
decision-making and play a larger role in public.
Every time I think of this topic I remember what
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, founder of the Arab Thought
Foundation, said in an interview regarding reforms in
Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is probably the only
country in the world where the government is pushing
for reforms and the people are pulling back.
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