Saudi Arabian Forum on Women in the Workplace – No Women Around

This neat little story made the news today…

Scholar lifts veil on sharia

When clerics, ministers and businessmen gathered at a forum in Riyadh in April to discuss women in the workplace, there were no women in sight.

Typically for Saudi Arabia, the women who took part were seated in a separate room so the men could only hear them.Saudi Arabian Woman About Town

Such things are part and parcel of the complex system of social control maintained by clerics of Saudi Arabia’s austere version of Sunni Islamic law, often termed Wahhabism. It is a system called into question by scholar Hatoon al-Fassi.

In her study, Women In Pre-Islamic Arabia, the outspoken rights advocate argues women in the pre-Islamic period enjoyed considerable rights in the Nabataean state, an urban Arabian kingdom centred in modern Jordan, south Syria and north-west Saudi Arabia during the Roman empire.

Most controversially, Fassi says women in Nabataea – whose capital was the famous rose-red city of Petra in south Jordan, and which was at its height during the lifetime of Jesus Christ – enjoyed more freedom than in Saudi Arabia today because clerics have misunderstood the origins of Islamic law. She also suggests some Saudi restrictions on women may have their origins in Greco-Roman traditions.

“One of the objectives of this book is to question the assumption of subordination of women in pre-Islamic Arabia,” Fassi writes. “Most of the practices related to women’s status are based on some local traditional practices that are not necessarily Islamic. Nor are they essentially Arabian.”

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