Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabist state. It has made some advances in relaxing rules for women, such as allowing them to drive, but it has a long way to go, as full modernization would not align with texts of the Quran and Hadith. Its male guardianship program persists as part of its overall commitment to the Sharia, as does its ongoing crackdown on women’s rights activists. Last April, Saudi women were reported to be using pseudonyms on Twitter “to share their experiences of sexual harassment, the reasons behind their hesitance to report these abuses to the authorities, and demands for the abolition of the discriminatory male guardianship system.”
The Sharia is clear that women are inferiors and must remain under the control of men. Since women are inferiors, they must be told when and what to say. This poses a particular dilemma to the Saudi kingdom, now confronting a “cultural and social clash that the opening up of Saudi Arabia from an austere and deeply conservative society to one that now hosts mass entertainment events has engendered.”
The rules and regulations in Saudi Arabia — as in many other Islamic states — are inspired or instructed by the Sharia. Take for example, female coverings, which many Muslims still insist are not a religious requirement. Full coverings are a degradation to women, yet are required in the Quran.
(Quran 24:31) And tell the believing women to reduce of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.
(Quran 33:59) O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused.
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