Saudi Arab

Saudi clerics protest king decision to appoint women to Shura Council

womenDozens of Saudi clerics have staged a protest against King Abdullah’s decision to appoint women to the Shura Council, a body that advises the government on new laws.

About 50 clerics gathered in front of the Royal Court in the capital, Riyadh, to express their opposition to the King’s decision to appoint 30 women to the previously all-male consultative Shura Council.

They demanded a meeting with King Abdullah and his top aide Khaled al-Tuwaijri to offer them what they called advice.

“The clerics were in front of the royal court to address the king and Tuwaijri with regard to women in the Shura Council…they waited for two hours but were denied access,” Saudi political activist, Waleed Abu al-Khair, told Reuters by phone.

On Friday, the Saudi monarch gave a fifth of the seats in the consultative body to women as part of social reforms promised in 2011. The kingdom’s top religious authorities, including the Grand Mufti, have accepted the decision.

This is the second demonstration by clerics, who had issued a fatwa banning any kind of public protest, since the appointment of women to the council.

“There is a contradiction…. The real Salafis do not do what these (clerics) are doing,” said Saudi political analyst Khaled al-Dakheel.

“Maybe we are now faced with a socio-political change in the society where we have the traditional Salafi school of thought that adheres to all its principles and now there is a new generation of Salafis emerging that hopes for different proposals. This requires examination,” Dakheel said.

Saudi women need permission from their male guardians to travel or take certain jobs and will vote for the first time in 2014.

The kingdom is the only country that does not allow women to drive.

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