Saudi Arabia Appoints Woman to Position in Two
Wed, December 24, 2014
The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, one of the two holy mosques. (Photo: © Wikipedia)
In what may be a significant step for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, a woman has been appointed to a leading position in the “General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques.”
As reported by the Saudi Gazette, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, the head of the General Presidency of the Two Mosques, appointed Fatimah Al-Rashoud as head of the Women Guidance Committee and supervisor of the women’s section of the Grand Mosque library.
The two “Holy Mosques” are al-Masjid al Haram (the Sacred or Grand Mosque) in Mecca — the location of the kabaa (the black rock) and the focal point of the hajj (pilgrimage) — and al-Masjid an-Nabawi (The Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina. They are the two holiest sites in Islam. As a sign of piety, the Kings of Saudi Arabia style themselves as “Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques.”
The position is an extremely prestigious one and as such is seen as a very positive step for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Al-Sudais said that women are more qualified to give religious guidance to other women than men are. He said, “They are aware of their own needs and circumstances. The presidency has also appointed several qualified female teachers of religion who give lectures and discussion circles in the mosque.”
Although the appointment is a welcome step forward for women, Saudi Arabia remains a country that is heavily discriminatory towards women. The Gulf kingdom enforces a system of male guardianship, described by many as a system of “gender apartheid.” Under Saudi law, all women and girls must have a male guardian. In most cases, women in the kingdom are forbidden from travelling, doing business, marrying, divorcing, opening a bank account – even undergoing certain medical procedures – without the permission of their guardian.
Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world where women are forbidden from driving.
Yet some limited progress as been made. In 2013 King Abdullah gave women the right to vote and allowed female representatives on the Shura Council, which advises the King.