Saturday, November 6, 2010

Eventful Week In Saudi Arabia

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
This comment was published in Gulf News on 7/11/2010

This past week was an eventful one for Saudi Arabia. In its annual report, Doing Business, the World Bank rated Saudi Arabia as the best country in which to do business in the region. Saudi Arabia also moved up a notch to eleventh spot among all nations in the Doing Business 2011 report.

According to the report, "Saudi Arabia, the region's highest-ranking economy on the overall ease of doing business, focused on four areas of business regulation in the past year". This explains its rise in the rankings. But it was also during this past week that certain events took place that would have perhaps discouraged foreign investors and venture capitalists eager to cash in.

A Saudi taxi driver was charged with khulwa (illegitimate seclusion) because he drove a Chinese nurse from the hospital she worked at to the local market in the vicinity in south Jeddah. The Jeddah Summary Court has started proceedings in the case of the taxi driver, a young Saudi man in his 20s who was stopped by members of the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice (Haia), who accused him of being in illegitimate seclusion with the woman.

In his defence, the young man stated he was helping his father as he had lost his car in the Jeddah floods in November, and was thus driving his father's taxi. He added that he had no previous relationship with the nurse. The Vice cops' security patrol caught the young man while he was dropping off the nurse at the market and took him to a nearby police station for questioning. The case continues.

In another event, a total of 1,240 non-Saudi Quran teachers have been barred from teaching in Jeddah. According to the Makkah region branch of the organisation in charge of Quran memorisation (tahfiz), "Quran memorising classes have not been stopped. The classes continue but only with Saudi teachers …"

"All expatriate teachers who work for the society have been stopped from teaching," stated the chairman of the Charitable Society for Holy Quran Memorisation (Makkah Region).

"We received a statement from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance ordering us to stop expatriate teachers from teaching the Quran. We were told that expatriate teachers are committing violations and breaking rules, but we do not know what these violations are. Most of the expatriate teachers are qualified enough and never create problems. We also received orders not to transfer the residency permits of expatriate teachers to us," he said.
Unspecified violations

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance said in a report that it wants Saudis to teach the Quran because of violations committed by expatriate teachers. It did not elaborate on the nature of such violations. No one from the ministry was available to discuss this matter further.

And finally, the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa on Sunday banning women cashiers from working in the Kingdom's supermarkets. The Senior Board of Ulema, chaired by the Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh, said in its ruling on Sunday that the mixing of sexes is forbidden and women should not seek jobs where they could encounter men.

"It is not permitted for Muslim women to work in a mixed environment with men who are not related to them, and women should look for jobs that do not lead to them interacting with men, which might cause attraction from both sides," the fatwa stated.

Citing Quran verses and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), the board urged women to stay away from such jobs for the sake of Allah, who would reward them accordingly.

The Kingdom's top government-sanctioned board of senior Islamic scholars endorsed the fatwa, which also calls for a ban on women cashiers elsewhere because it violates the Kingdom's rules on the segregation of sexes. The decision was prompted following demands by a hard-line conservative preacher who had publicly called for a boycott of supermarkets, which had begun employing women cashiers less than two months ago.

Needless to say, the fatwa has become a heated point of discussion in this never-ending compendium of contradictions.

No comments:

Post a Comment