From today’s New York Sun:

When a group of Saudi women appeared on a TV discussion program to voice their grievances recently they got a mixed reception from viewers. Many applauded their boldness. Others complained that the participants in Saudi Women Speak Out had not gone far enough….

The application of an ultra-strict interpretation of Islam, historically alien to much of the country, technically prevents women from driving, traveling without being accompanied by a guardian, working alongside men or showing their faces in public. These rules are now starting to crumble as more women go out to work….

The religious police who not so long ago would have relished breaking up the fun are a demoralized bunch. Recently they turned up to remonstrate with some youths holding a party on the beach. As they trudged away after delivering their lecture the sound was turned back up….

The stifling conservatism of women’s lives is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Women were the first to suffer the consequences of the failed uprising of Juhaiman al-Utaibi, a Muslim zealot and enemy of the al-Saud monarchy who with his followers took over the Holy Mosque in Mecca in November 1979. The rebels were crushed, and the 63 survivors publicly beheaded. The ruling family, though, was rattled and the religious police given free rein in an attempt to restore the government’s Islamic credentials. “This sowed the seeds of a new religion,” said Mrs.Fitaihi. “It had nothing to do with Islam. It was to do with power, using religion to control.” [“An Opening for Saudi Women: Activists Seek Informal Loosening of Rules”, The Daily Telegraph]

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