New Delhi/May 31
Amid Saudi Arabia government’s move to encourage women to work in mixed gender environment, a Saudi writer urged his Twitter followers to sexually molest women hired to work as cashiers in big grocery stores so that they are forced to quit their jobs.
Abdullah Mohammad Al Dawood, who writes self-help books including one called The Joy of Talking, has sparked fierce debate this week through social networking site Twitter (hashtag harass_female_cashiers, to press for Saudi women to be forced to stay at home to protect their chastity).
While some users denounced him and criticized his comments, some conservatives are supporting and are even terming him as a fighter against government’s move to westernise Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has launched social and economic reforms that are attracting much criticism from conservatives in the country who are opposed against working women as they are viewing government’s move as an attempt to westernise and corrupt the country.
After the Saudi government’s move in 2011, many Saudi Arabian nationals including women have surged into the country’s private sector and government is now planning to formulate anti-harassment law.
A conservative cleric, Khalid Ebrahim Al Saqabi endorsed Al Dawood comments and said that a law proposed by the government against sexual harassment in newly gender mixed workplaces will only encourage consensual debauchery and government should concern itself with finding jobs men instead of women.
Al Dawood has more than 97,000 followers on Twitter and justified views by quoting a story from the early days of Islam about a famous warrior, Al Zubair. “Zubair did not want his wife to leave home to pray in the mosque and he hid in the dark one night and molested his wife in the street. The wife rushed home and decided against ever going out of her house again, saying that there is no safer place than home and the world out there is corrupt.
Al Dawood comments has also drawn strong criticism and one of users urged Al Dawood to follow his own example and harass his own wife and sisters.
However, after the controversy Al Dawood’s office issued a statement claiming that the author’s comments were misunderstood and he is well-known for his insistence on women’s hijab and modesty and on the rights of working women. However, the statement adds that the official fatwa barred women from working as cashiers.
New Delhi/May 31