03/23/2009, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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No woman on TV, Saudi clerics say

A group of 35 Saudi clerics issue a statement for the benefit of the new Information minister, telling him Saudi women should not under any circumstance appear on TV or in print media. It is not likely that he will heed their call.
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – “No Saudi women should appear on TV, no matter what the reason,” read a statement by 35 Saudi clergymen sent yesterday to Saudi Arabia’s new information minister. “No images of women should appear in Saudi newspapers and magazines.”

“We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book fair,” the statement also said.

“We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you,” it added.

The clerics were referring here to the new Information Minister Abdel Aziz Khoja, and the media reform they have in mind includes the prohibition of playing music and music shows on television.

The 35-member group includes several professors from the ultra-conservative Imam University, Islamic research scholars, a judge and some government employees.

Although the statement is not likely to be accepted, it does put a degree of pressure on the new minister, Khoja, who was appointed by King Abdullah on 14 February.

On that date the king reshuffled his cabinet and other top positions in the Saudi hierarchy in order to reduce the influence of hardliners, several of whom lost their job, including four ministers, the speaker of the Majlis al-Shura (Saudi Arabia’s main consultative assembly), the head of the supreme court and the chief of the religious police (muttawa).

The most striking change was the appointment of a woman, Noura al-Fayez, as deputy education minister.

In a country where they are legally bound to a male guardian (father, brother or husband) and have very few rights and many prohibitions (like driving), women can be journalists and do appear on TV, with their faces showing, whilst in public they have to cover themselves completely.

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