Manama: A Saudi man who has come under intense attack for urging men to molest female cashiers to push them to quit their work has sought to distance himself from the controversy by claiming he had been misunderstood.
Abdullah Al Dawood “totally condemns the reports that have misquoted him and misled people on the tweet he had posted,” his office said in a statement. “The claims were made online and subsequently published in international media without anyone checking the facts with him or asking for a statement from him even though it is easy to communicate with him. His contact numbers are available on his books and on the satellite channels that broadcast his programmes.”
According to the office, Al Dawood is well-known for his insistence on women’s hijab and modesty and on the rights of working women.
However, the statement added that the official fatwa barred women from working as cashiers.
The religious figure has caused uproar after he reportedly called for molesting female cashiers and put them under pressure in a bid to make them quit their jobs and stay home.
He claimed that allowing women to work as cashiers amounted to trafficking in people and should be resisted.
Saudi Arabia has been pushing for a wide-ranging policy to recruit local women for jobs that were previously considered beneath their dignity.
Thousands of people took up jobs outside the more familiar sectors of education and health and that included working as saleswomen and cashiers.
For the government it was one of the ways to reduce increasing unemployment rates and to allow women in need to sustain themselves economically while limiting reliance on foreign labour.
However, the drive to reform the market has been fiercely resisted by deeply conservative Saudis who believe that it would undermine their traditions and values.
Some people made the unprecedented step of cursing labour officials openly while warning them of “deadly diseases for corrupting the Saudi society.”
The sharp divergences within the Saudi society towards the status of women were equally clear when 30 women were this year appointed to the Shura Council, the advisory body that was up to the January decision by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, an exclusive realm for men.