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Saudi activist defends pro-women stance

Shura appointments in line with Islamic traditions, Suheila says

Gulf News

Manama: A Saudi activist has rejected claims that she had insulted the companions of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by supporting moves to empower women politically.

Suheila Zain Al Abideen Al Hammad had come under attack from Saleh Al Fawzan, a conservative religious scholar, after she said that the Prophet’s companions took into consideration the views of women and that they were keen on the participation of women in public life.

The scholar, known for her books on the status of women and the challenges they face, said that some people thought that she falsely attributed claims to the companions while in fact she conducted a study that highlighted weak statements allegedly made by the companions on the role of women and that could not be fully substantiated, local Saudi daily Al Sharq reported on Sunday.

“We have stories of women in Saudi Arabia who were at the forefront of action,” she said. “I can cite the example of Ghalia Al Baqmiya, from the Baqoom tribe, who led the troops of her tribe and defeated the army of Mohammad Ali,” she said.

A group of hardened conservatives in Saudi Arabia is still resisting a decision announced 10 days ago by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to appoint 30 women to the Shura Council, the consultative body that has traditionally been a male domain.

Even though the decree by King Abdullah stressed the full compliance of the women with strict regulations in their appearance and work areas, the conservatives said they were concerned that the mixing between men and women could possibly result in violations of Islamic values.

“The fact that women take up leading positions and mix with men does not in any way undermine their morals or stain their modesty,” Suheila said.

Last week, the Madinah-born scholar, who has prepared more than 100 studies and published more than 600 articles, said that more than 30 women should have been appointed to the 150-member Shura.

“Women represent half of the society and as such, their number at the Shura Council should be 50 per cent of the members,” she told Al Sharq. “Their representation would then reflect their role in the drafts and legal plans related to the status of women. In fact, some of the women appointed to the Shura should be appointed as ministers,” she said.