A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Saudi Hardliners Angry About Women on Shura Council

You probably have heard how King ‘Abdullah of Saudi Arabia recently named 30 women to the Shura Council, the country's appointed advisory council, named by the King to advise the King.It cannot legislate and is unelected. There are still now women in the Cabinet, and the 30 women in the 150-seat Council will be seated separately and enter by a separate door. And they still can't drive to the meetings. In other words, while an encouraging sign of change in the Kingdom, the move did not exactly turn the country into an egalitarian utopia.

But of course, even the smallest bit of progress has its critics. Hardline clerics are protesting. Here's why:
In an unauthorized but un-policed protest at the royal palace, a video of which is now circulating on YouTube, religious groups condemned ''the dangerous changes taking place in the country''. They demanded a meeting with palace officials to ''make them change their minds'', saying the female nominations ''are not representative of society'' and calling for similar parliamentary quotas for religious figures.
Eek! Girls in the clubhouse! I must say,though, that I do agree with one aspect of the complaint: that it's "not representative of society." Demographically, the Council would have to be half female to be representative of society. (Yet somehow, I don't think that's what he meant. And while the speaker wasn't identified in the story, I don't think I'm being too daring in referring to the speaker as "he.")

And of course, the Iranian PressTV was glad to report the protests. In terms of women in public life Iran actually seems enlightened by comparison if you don't look much farther in your comparison. But PressTV does have a clip of the demonstration along with an English commentary (though I don't endorse the commentary: I would not take PressTV's unsupported word that the sun comes up in the East):

No comments: