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Bloggers reject opposition to women in Shura

Women seen as positive voices of change for greater rights

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Gulf News

Dubai: A move by hardened conservatives in Saudi Arabia to have the decision of appointing women to the Shura Council delayed or revoked has been criticised by bloggers in the Saudi blogosphere.

On Friday, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud issued a decree that named 30 women to the 150-seat consultative council in a historic breakthrough that ended the exclusive male presence in the formal advisory body since its inception in 1993.

The decree stipulated that the women would sit separately from men and would have their own entrance doors and working and praying areas.

It also stated that the appointment of the women had the full support of leading religious figures and that the decision to appoint them was taken after they were consulted.

However, on Tuesday, a small group of religious figures headed to the Royal Court to ask for a meeting with a senior official to discuss the appointment decision.

The men were not allowed inside the court and a video of their alleged leader quietly addressing them and praising their efforts to address the issue even though they failed to achieve their aim was posted on a social network.

Reactions by bloggers on the social network included some messages of support, but were overwhelmingly against the men’s attempt to stand against a decision to give women a greater say within the Saudi society.

Almalki96 said that he could not understand the motives behind trying to reverse the decision. “Does this mean that the problems in the country are over and that only the appointment of women needed to be addressed? There are much more pressing issues that these men could address,” he posted.

His views were supported by a blogger writing under the name of Cxzs66xx. “You people are not sincere in what you are doing. There are several other issues that you could have taken up.”

Mohdbaqi1295 criticised the man who addressed the group before dispersing. “He claims he is talking on behalf of the Saudi citizens,” he wrote. “I have never heard him address unemployment and the suffering of young people seeking jobs. He is talking only about marginal issues.”

Ali Saleh also lashed out at him for referring to himself and the group as scholars who could communicate with thousands of followers.

“This man is inflating his ego,” he wrote. “He is talking about thousands of supporters behind each of them. None of the country’s top religious scholars, including [Abdul Aziz] Bin Baz [Grand Mufti: 1993-1999] and [Abdullah] Bin Uthaimeen [died in 2001] ever referred to himself as a scholar. These true scholars always referred to themselves as knowledge seekers. People should learn not to praise themselves,” he posted.

But for Yousuf Mohammad, “talking about thousands of followers means an implicit threat.”

Amol 83 defended the decision to appoint women as the step towards invigorating their social roles. “Women will not go to the Shura Council to dance, but to defend the rights of women. They will have an active role in society and there will be no sedition,” she wrote.

For Edaat32, “The presence of women in the Shura Council may help guarantee the rights of divorcees, widows and poor women.”

Hamsh0002 charged that the men who refused to see women take seats in the Shura Council had narrow perspectives.

“They tend to look at women as losers and traitors who are unfit for social life. We resent this narrow-minded view,” Hamsh0002 posted while Atkteky insisted that consulting women was not an innovation. “Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] used to consult with his wife. There is nothing wrong with it.”

However, some bloggers defended the “good intentions” of the group of religious figures.

Marwan Al Harbi said that “these people want to preserve local traditions and refuse to allow Western influence on its values.”

“They have the right to give advice,” Sa’ad Al Shahrani wrote. “I am not with them or against them, but they are the sons of this country and as such, they can express their views.”