Monday, August 27, 2007

Springtime in the desert

by Dana Moss from The Guardian

The very steps the kingdom needs to take to integrate women into economic life and create an environment tempting for foreign businesses are often the ones resisted most strenuously. Making the situation even trickier for King Abdullah and progressive princes is the overlap between those opposing reforms and the strict Wahhabi clergy who provide the House of Saud with the religious sanction necessary for its rule. Characteristic of such hostility from the religious elite is the reaction of the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, to the mixing of men and women - conventional practice in international business terms. In 2004, after witnessing mingling during the Jeddah Economic Forum, he issued a furious reprimand: "I am pained by such shameful behaviour ... allowing women to mix with men is the root of every evil and catastrophe."

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