Just in case the wheels of progress ever start to turn in earnest, the fatwa committee is there waiting with a roadside bomb. Ironically, it is rulings like this which give rise to creepy, awkward situations like the one described in this story, where women in Saudi Arabia have to deal with male lingerie salesmen because there can be no female sales clerks.
The logic appears to go like this: If women go out without a male guardian... they will have sex.
If women drive... they will have sex.
If women study in a coeducational setting... they will have sex.
If women go to work to help provide for their families and men are around... they will have sex.
If women travel abroad... they will have sex.
If women are given any autonomy or additional rights, never mind all the other opportunities, they will use it to -- you guessed it -- have sex.
But somehow the male lingerie salesman gets a pass on this otherwise airtight assumption. Go figure. Or don't. Chances are it's already the case that "Allah hates you for asking too many questions." "Fatwa body bans mingling of sexes," by Muhammad al-Sulami for Arab News, June 7:
JEDDAH: The permanent committee for issuing religious edicts, chaired by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, has banned the mingling of men and women at offices and educational institutions.
“Women are not allowed to work with men. For example, they cannot work as secretaries for men or at receptions, production lines or accounting sections in a commercial center, pharmacy or restaurant where men are also present,” the ruling said.
The committee, which made this comment while answering a question from a Saudi, warned that the mingling of sexes would have a negative effect on the family and society.
“Women’s work and education should be done without mingling with men. They should work in women-only workplaces, as Islamic teachings ban the mingling of sexes,” the committee said, quoting a verse from the Holy Qur’an: When you ask them (wives of the Prophet) for any goods, ask them from behind a curtain. This is purer for your hearts and for theirs — verse 53, Chapter Al-Ahzab.
The insistence on women's-only facilities also ensures that under any possible condition of scarcity or inconvenience, women's accommodations will be the first thing to go in favor of the men. During the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, a lack of resources was one of their excuses for keeping girls out of school.
The committee said the verse applied to all Muslim women until the Day of Judgment.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that it is better for women to pray at their homes than in mosques. However, in the same Hadith, the Prophet has urged Muslims not to prevent their women from praying at mosques. The committee urged all citizens and residents to fear God and follow His teachings in all their affairs and dealings.
The religious edict was signed by prominent clerics such as Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, Sheikh Ahmed Mubaraki, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fowzan, Sheikh Abdul Kareem Al-Khodair, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Asheikh and Sheikh Abdullah bin Khonain.
Last year, the committee issued a similar edict banning women from working as cashiers at supermarkets.