Saudi Arabia

Head of Saudi Religious Police: “Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving”

Head of Saudi Religious Police: “Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving”

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving is not mandated by any text in Sharia, the Islamic legal code which forms the basis for most Saudi law, the head of its morality police told Reuters on Thursday.
Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh stressed that he has no authority to change Saudi policy on women driving, but his comment may feed into a national discussion in Saudi Arabia, where women have in the past been arrested for defying the ban.
Although Saudi Arabia has no written legal code to go with the texts making up sharia, its police and judiciary have long enforced a prohibition on women driving, citing the country’s conservative customs.
Even without any specific law against women driving, women who defied the prohibition have been arrested by the country’s regular police department and put on trial on charges that include causing public disturbance.
“Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving,” said Al al-Sheikh, who was appointed by King Abdullah last year to head the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the formal name of the religious police.
King Abdullah has pushed for cautious social and economic reforms in the world’s top oil exporter, including efforts to give women a more prominent role in society.
Al al-Sheikh said that in his role as head of the morality police, he did not make policy but implemented the rules and laws of the kingdom.
He said that the morality police had not pursued or stopped any women for driving since he was made head of the organisation and said he was not aware of such cases before his appointment.
But he added that a report in the Arabic daily al-Hayat on Thursday that members of the morality police had recently been instructed not to pursue or stop women drivers in future was untrue.
“We have not given any new instructions,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s morality police was set up as an informal institution in the 1930s to enforce public morals according to the strict interpretation of sharia in the kingdom’s official Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam.
It is now a branch of the state, with a permanent staff and annual budget. Al al-Sheikh, like its previous heads, is a religious scholar.
King Abdullah’s reform efforts, such as appointing women to the advisory Shoura Council and promoting female employment, have sometimes incurred opposition among conservatives in the country’s powerful Wahhabi clergy.
“The era of King Abdullah is an era of reform and development of all state organisations, including the Commission,” said Al al-Sheikh.
Al al-Sheikh said he has worked to improve the body’s image over the past 18 months by clamping down on members who exceed their authority and encouraging a lighter hand in its dealing with the public.
“We implement the rules strictly if the Commission people exceed their powers. We don’t allow them to interpret the law themselves,” he said.
Women’s rights groups in the conservative Islamic kingdom have been agitating for a change in the rules. In addition to being banned from driving, Saudi women must seek the approval of a male relative, known as their “guardian”, to travel, get a job, open a bank account or have some forms of elective surgery.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall)

Source: Reuters

King Abdullah decrees 20% of Shura Council to be women – Here is the list of the 150 members

Riyadh, Safar 29, 1434, Jan 11, 2013, SPA — Two royal orders, amending the Shura Council system and forming a new chamber for four Hijra years, starting the expiration of the term of office of the current Shura Council, have been issued here today.

According to the Royal Order, the Shura Council will be consisting of its Speaker and 150 members, all to be chosen by the King according to their knowledge, experience and profession, provided that women would be represented in the Council with no less than 20% of its members.
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Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army

Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army

Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime, the Guardian has learned.

The move, which has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the US and Arab world, is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria.

Officials in the Saudi capital embraced the idea when it was put to them by Arab officials in May, according to sources in three Arab states, around the same time that weapons started to flow across the southern Turkish border into the hands of Free Syria Army leaders.

Read the full article here.

Saudi Scholars Pledge Not To Raise Funds For Syria But One Saudi Scholar Offers $450,000 Reward For Bashar’s Death

Saudi Scholars Pledge Not To Raise Funds For Syria But One Saudi Scholar Offers $450,000 Reward For Bashar’s Death

Note: My translations are very poor. If you can correct it, please let comment below. JazakAllah khair.

This is the statement from the Scholars Committee on Syria from Saudi Arabia:

الحمد لله رب العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين، وبعد:
فقد تم اتصال عدد من المسؤولين ببعض أعضاء (لجنة العلماء لنصرة سوريا) وطلبوا منهم إيقاف حملة التبرعات فوراً، وانطلاقاً من قوله تعالى: {فاتقوا الله ما استطعتم}، وقوله {لا يكلف الله نفساً إلا وسعها}، وتحقيقاً للمصلحة العامة فإن اللجنة تعلن إيقاف الحملة واعتذارها عن استقبال التبرعات وانتهاء المهمة التي قامت من أجلها، مع شكرنا لمن ساند هذه الحملة وتجاوب معها.
نسأل الله أن ينصر إخواننا في سوريا وأن يذل أعداءهم من قوى الكفر والطغيان.
فأبشروا وأملوا بقرب النصر، فإن مع العسر يسراً إن مع العسر يسراً، وصلى الله على نبينا محمد وآله وصحبه أجمعين.
لجنة العلماء لنصرة سوريا.
عصر الاثنين 7 رجب 1433

Translation:
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and blessings and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad and all his family and companions.

To proceed:

A few officials have contacted members of the Committee of Scholars for the support of Syria and demanded of them to stop the campaign to raise funds immediately. The officials based their demands on the verses “So fear Allah as much as ye can…”[Surah 64, V.16] and “On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear…” [Surah 2, V. 286]. Then, for the sake of the public interest, the committee announced it is halting the campaign for donations. Further, the committee said it is unable to accept funds and their campaign has ended. The Committee wishes to thank everyone that responded and took part in the campaign.

We ask Allah to assist our brothers in Syria and to humiliate their disbelieving tyrannical enemies. We pray for victory soon, verily after hardship and distress comes ease.

Peace and blessing of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon his family and his companions.

The Scholars committee for Syria.
Monday 7 Rajab 143

Translation:
I just left Riyadh after 2 hours and signed a pledge not to fundraise for Syira. I hope from those who have intended to come to Masjid Al-Bawardi to donate, not to burden themselves with doing so.

Click here for a screenshot.

Translation:
The committee of scholars in support of Syria were told not to raise funds for Syira. I can’t collect any more donations. Oh Allah this is our effort (we tried).

Click here for a screenshot.

Translation:
I signed the pledge not to raise funds for Syria. Just left the [Saudi] intelligence police department.

Click here for the screenshot.

Translation:
I was summoned by the office of the Chief of Police of Mecca and told about the pledge not to raise funds for Syria. I complied with this pledge.

Click here for the screenshot.

In other news, another Saudi Scholar, Dr. Ali al-Rabieei, has offered a $450,000 reward for the death of Bashar al-Asaad:

Very interesting.