Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A New Dawn of Progress

One of the things that I have had a very difficult time with since moving to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the extreme gender segregation that Saudis live by. Things like men and women working together or simply socializing at public functions - that are considered ordinary behavior in the West - have been forbidden because of the hard-hitting enforcement of this issue applied by KSA's religious police force. The ever-present religious police, which have the long official name of "The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" (CPVPV), is also known as Haia. What I have personally seen and experienced of the gender segregation here has been so exaggerated, unnatural, and unnecessary - and I can only shake my head in disbelief.

In Islam, a man and a woman who are not married/blood-related to each other are not supposed to be “secluded” together - but in Saudi Arabia, this religious law has for years been taken a step further to include pretty much all normal open social contact between men and women, even in the most public of places and circumstances.

That's why I'm feeling encouraged by a recent action taken by The King of Saudi Arabia as he recently replaced the head of the religious police with a more moderate choice. Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, who holds a degree in Islamic Studies, is the new minister of the Haia. He replaces Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Humayen, whose reign since his appointment in 2009 as the morality police chief, has been much criticized and plagued with controversy.

But not only has KSA’s beloved King appointed this fresh face to clean up the tarnished image of the CPVPV, he has also given the new appointee implicit instructions as to his expectations and desires, paving the way for what should be a kinder, gentler Saudi Arabia. Told to show leniency and respect to both Saudi citizens and foreigners, Sheikh Al-Sheikh said “King Abdullah stressed the tolerant and moderate nature of Islam” and asked him “to spread the correct understanding of Islam among people.”

In one of his first official acts as the new Minister of the CPVPV, Al-Sheikh dismissed the volunteer members of the Haia, who at times have garnered undesirable attention for their aggressiveness, misbehavior, and improper abuses of authority.

According to Arab News, “The sheikh is of the view that hardline approach in the issue of ikhtilat (mixing in public places or in the presence of others in a dignified manner) is unjustified.” The forward thinker is also against marriages of underage little girls and agrees that female salesclerks should be manning women’s lingerie shops, not men – issues that have caused controversy and have cropped up in the news for many years.

The implications of this new appointment appear to be ushering in a new dawn for the Saudi Arabian people. To some, it may not seem very significant, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a major development and a very welcome and much-needed step in Saudi Arabia’s evolution toward social modernization in the 21st century.

For more information about this topic:

Arab News article “Abdullatif Al-Asheikh is new Haia chief”

Arab News article “King tells new Haia chief to be lenient with people”

Digital Journal article “Saudi King replaces head of morality police with moderate”

Al-Arab Online article "Sheikh Abdullatif seeks to reduce violations of Saudi religious police"

Saudi Gazette article “Hai’a no longer needs volunteers: Al-Sheikh”

Wikipedia article on KSA’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Saudi Arabia)

9 comments:

  1. I heard of the new appointment and I think the world is watching to see the results. I hope for all that there will be a softer side seen so that people will be more inclined to look deeper into the good aspects of Islam.

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  2. Yay!
    Wishing all the best to KSA in 2012!

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  3. The ideas are good and it's nice to see these subjects broached. It is a first step.

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  4. Saudis men and women turn into 30 ,40 years of age and yet they don't find their suitable future match mates..With all this policing and segregation of women from men ,there is a weak chance to catch up with the world.

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  5. I don't hold out much hope. The Morality police actually have a 5 day training course on how to deal with witches and socerers. Not kidding. Personally, I think it is going to get even more restrictive in the near future due to the skirmish, women pushing the boundaries and the impending change in leadership. It is going to take them three years to clean up the school books fill with how to properly amputate hands and feet. This couple with the eye for an eye philosophy. Whatever happened to math, science, history, literature, physics, etc. So sorry not buying that this is going to be a kinder or gentler Saudi. It just might hide it's true colors just a little more but nothing is going to change any time soon.

    Heck let just say I am a pestimist and lets hope I am wrong. So here's hoping for a brighter tomorrow.

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  6. As a wise man once said the journey of a thousand miles begans with a single step! this is another step out of the dark ages. Thank God for your king Long may he live!

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  7. Eastern religions cause great revolution and impact on those free-thinking and a little conservative in the West. East has been characterized as being sexist and has customs and beliefs that today we can say that violate human rights, especially women. However, it has been so much pressure in the western world and open-mindedness of many Eastern today will have a little more attention to those who are relegated as children and women. Saudi and areas related to Islam and Muslims have understood that their habits can be maintained over time, but you can also respect the rights of women and to live as "normal" society. In the blog, you can read impressions of someone who traveled to the East to meet these cultures and that every day is struck by the cultural difference between these two worlds. Today, for example, new governments and new laws allow men and women to share and be in one place without being repressed or punished for behavior that is perfectly normal and incurs no violations of the rights of any kind.

    Regards

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