Ahead of Appointing Women to Shoura, Saudi Grand Mufti Warns Against Gender Mixing

The Associated Press:

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric on Friday warned against the mixing of the genders, saying it poses a threat to female chastity and society, as the kingdom prepares for the first time to grant women seats on the country’s top advisory body.

Delivering his traditional Friday sermon, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik said authorities must adhere to Shariah, or Islamic law, by ensuring men and women are separated as much as possible at all times. The cleric’s comments come just weeks ahead of allowing women to be members of the 150-member Shura Council, the country’s top advisory body.

Speculation has been mounting about how many women would be appointed and who are these women. Elaph reported in December that only 15 women are expected to join the council when new members are announced in two weeks. But for female activists like Hatoon al-Fassi, a symbolic representation of women will not be enough. “At the end we are not behind the scenes,” she said. “We are asking for equality and for half of the council, or what is 75 seats.” This is highly unlikely, but al-Fassi and other activists have no other choice but to push the government for more reforms even if the government is not listening.