Friday, March 01, 2013

Saudi Cleric Fatwa- Women Can Unveil, Travel Alone and Eat With Men

Saudi Cleric Sheikh Ahmed Bin Qassim al-Ghamdi has always been a progressive voice of reason in the Muslim world.  In 2010, after some comments he made regarding antiquated, outdated Saudi Islamic thought, al-Ghamdi was fired and then, thankfully, rehired. A senior officer, at the time, in the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (PVPV) or better known as the Saudi religious police, he had caused a major commotion in the ultra religious Kingdom when he suggested that nowhere in Islamic scriptures does it mention that the mingling of sexes was forbidden. Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, has overly strict gender segregation laws which apparently have no basis in Islam. Not only did al-Ghamdi have the guts to challenge the religious status quo with regards to segregation of the sexes, but he then had the audacity to state that Muslims don't need to pray in packs at a Mosque, which is presumably the reason why he was sacked, before he was reinstated as general manager for the Mecca branch of the religious police.
Ghamdi was reportedly dressed down three days ago by the country's highest cleric for saying that Muslims are not necessarily required to pray inside a mosque with a group of other Muslims in daily prayers.
Apparently, one of the duties of the PVPV is to make sure that shops and offices close for the daily prayers so that men can pray together. Finding the closing of shops to be inconvenient, al-Mahdi made his statement that it was unnecessary for men to pray as a group.  But  these comments angered many.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh told Ghamdi he was getting involved in matters of Islamic sharia law that were outside his authority, the Al-Madinah newspaper reported on Friday.

Al-Sheikh also said in his sermon during Friday prayers that anyone suggesting that congregation prayer is not necessary is "leading people to hell," according to reports.
Although Saudi officials claimed his initial firing had nothing to do with his liberal statements, I think we all know it was. However, why they re-hired him remains a mystery, although he is no longer involved with the PVPV.

Then early last year he piped in about how there was nothing wrong with listening to music.

This year al-Ghamdi is back issuing fatwas that might just make the ultra conservative Muslim world explode. He has said that women can uncover their arms and faces, travel alone, and eat with men.

In statements posted on Twitter, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Qassim al-Ghamdi, the former head of Mecca's Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice committee, said: “It is permissible for people to look at what is not forbidden in women like their faces and their arms.”
In other statements, the cleric said women can travel without a male guardian provided that there is safety.
Al-Ghamdi backed his statements with references to sayings by prominent Muslim scholars in history.
This is pretty major, if anyone bothers to pay attention.

Maybe with people like al-Ghamdi Saudi Arabia will eventually reach the 19th century, since I think it will take at least another century before the Saudis reach the 21st.

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