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Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia - Arab News, Saudi Arabia

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  • Zafar Khan
    Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia Raid Qusti • rqusti@arabnews.com On Sunday, a radio program on MBC caught my attention. The topic was “Women’s Rights in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 18, 2003
      Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia
      Raid Qusti • rqusti@...

      On Sunday, a radio program on MBC caught my attention.
      The topic was “Women’s 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 women’s 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 man’s 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 government’s call for women’s
      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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