Published September 12th, 2012 – 16:21 GMT via SyndiGate.info
Saudi preacher Sheikh Ghazi al-Shammari caused a stir in the Arab world this week when he took to Twitter with a controversial message for liberal women in the Kingdom. The religious scholar advised his followers that marriage is the best solution for these women – most of whom he says end up divorced.
His comments have left many people confused – whilst divorces are known for being bitter, few knew they could be so directly linked to politics.
Saudi society has felt the effects of modernization in recent years, not only in the development of infrastructure and business but also in attitudes towards women. The last few months have seen landmark steps from females in the country – the movement of women striving for the right to drive has gained momentum, this summer Saudi women competed in the Olympic games and just days ago the country appointed its first senior female diplomat.
Whilst changes like these are supported by many, they mark a daunting future for Saudi’s conservative men who seek to reverse the liberalization of the society.
People like Shammari see the growing rate of divorce as just another product of this change. Last year alone, the Ministry of Justice revealed that there had been 31,000 divorces and over 3,000 annulments in the country. For the preacher this can only be the sign of an unstable society that needs to look to marriage for its answers.
Yet, some have accused Shammari of hypocrisy. Earlier this year the preacher advised a dissatisfied husband to divorce his wife live on his family-guidance radio show. The caller said his wife had “offended his manhood” by traveling without his approval from the Saudi port city of Jeddah to the capital Riyadh for a business conference. Shammari responded that the only solution was for the man to divorce his wife “for committing such a mistake against her home and husband.”
Many in the Kingdom were outraged at this reaction and Shammari has done little to endear himself with his latest tweet. His most recent comment has sparked a backlash from ‘liberal Saudi women’ who have snubbed the preacher and accused Islamists of being sex-obsessed.
But, then again, according to Shammari these women are probably just bitter.