Making the news this past week from Saudi Arabia was a report that some 200 Saudi religious clerics have united in a cause - applying pressure and threatening the Saudi Minister of Labor, Adel Fakieh. Their beef with Mr. Fakieh lies in his promotion and support of Saudi women in the retail workplace, a new policy which was unheard of when I first moved to the Kingdom in 2007.
It seems that these religious zealots fear that gender mixing will lead to unacceptable and sinful behavior between unmarried men and women. It's one thing to be opposed to gender mixing. It's quite another to threaten the Labor Minister with the wish for bodily harm to come to him - in the form of praying to Allah that he will be stricken with cancer and die, which is exactly what happened to Fakieh's predecessor. To his credit, Mr. Fakieh defended his position and told his opponents to file a lawsuit and let the courts decide.
|Me with a female employee in one of my favorite shops|
It was downright creepy, humiliating, and embarrassing for a woman in Saudi Arabia - who must be fully covered from head to toe when out in public - to go into a lingerie shop and have to deal with a salesman telling her that she should buy a B-cup instead of a C. Yet this is exactly what Saudi women were forced to endure for many years in this country before they began a 3-year campaign against this practice, ending in a tumultuous victory when a law was passed and enforced - with the King's blessing - requiring saleswomen in these positions.
|Saudi female cashiers in grocery chain Hyper Panda|
After all, what could be more confusing and contradictory than placing Saudi women in the uncomfortable position of having to purchase bras, panties, negligees, cosmetics, toiletries, and feminine hygiene products from men in a culture where gender mixing is banned? I just don't see the difference between whether a woman is the customer dealing with a salesman, or a man is the customer dealing with a saleswoman. Isn't there the same amount of "gender mixing" occurring either way?
But what I would really love to know is: what kind of a hideous and sick interpretation of any religion would endorse praying for a person to be stricken with cancer? This is such an offensive idea coming from so-called "religious" men. I believe they are just bullies practicing religious voodoo who like to keep people in line through fear mongering.
For more reading on this subject:
From Al Arabiya - Saudi Labor Minister faces "deadly prayers" from angry clerics
From Riyadh Bureau -Saudi Clerics To Labor Minister: Stop Women Employment Or You Will Get Cancer