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Saudis consider banning women from Mecca

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  • Saudis consider banning women from Mecca

    JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Officials are considering an unprecedented proposal to ban women from performing the five Muslim prayers in the immediate vicinity of Islam's most sacred shrine in Mecca. Some say women are already being kept away.

    The issue has raised a storm of protest across the kingdom, with some women saying they fear the move is meant to restrict women's roles in Saudi society even further. But the religious authorities behind the proposal insist its real purpose is to lessen the chronic problem of overcrowding, which has led to deadly riots during pilgrimages at Mecca in the past.

    It was unclear why the step was being considered now, but officials say they have growing concerns about overcrowding, particularly at Mecca's Grand Mosque. The mosque contains the Kaaba, a large stone structure that Muslims around the world face during their daily prayers.

    The chief of the King Fahd Institute for Hajj Research, which came up with the plan, told The Associated Press Thursday that the new restrictions are already in place. There have been word-of-mouth reports of women being asked to pray at new locations away from the white-marbled area surrounding the Kaaba in recent weeks.

    But Sheik Youssef Khzeim, deputy chief of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs, a Saudi government organization in charge of implementing the proposal, denied the reports, saying the old arrangements that allow women to pray in the Kaaba's vicinity are still in effect. He said if any woman were asked to move to the back "it's only to maintain order."

    "This is still a study and nothing has been implemented," Khzeim told the AP.

    Such discrepancies are not unusual in Saudi Arabia and could signal an attempt to introduce the controversial arrangements slowly.

    Many Saudis say the proposal, released two weeks ago in the form of a study, violates the spirit of Islam.

    "The prophet, who is the first leader of Muslims, didn't do it," said Mohsen al-Awajy, an Islamist lawyer and cleric. "Those who are proposing the change after him have to come up with legal justification for it."

    Al-Awajy urged the Saudi government to put an end to "such a rigid and austere mind-set that could become the core of a violent trend in the future."

    Prominent Saudi female writers have written angry editorials denouncing the plan as discriminatory and urging authorities not to adopt it. Some have questioned the reason for changing a tradition that goes back to the dawn of Islam. Others say it further sets back women in the country.

    Women in Saudi Arabia lead strict lives. They are banned from driving and need permission from a male guardian to go to school, get a job, travel or stay at a hotel.

    "Women are not all young beauties that rush to the mosque with an aim of seducing men," wrote one woman, Aziza al-Manie, in the country's Okaz daily.

    "Among female visitors are the ill, the old, tormented widows, the handicapped and disabled, and the ones with problems desperately wanting God's help and mercy," she wrote, according to a translation in Arab News.

    Al-Manie said there are no laws that allow men the exclusive possession of the area and warned that if the government adopts the plan, it will live up to "the assumption that Saudi Arabia is an extremist country that deprives women of their given rights."

    Osama al-Barr, head of the hajj institute, said the fuss was unwarranted because the study was meant simply to find a solution to the problem of overcrowding at the Grand Mosque. Muslims believe the original Kaaba was built by Adam and that it was rebuilt by the prophet Abraham, who initiated the call for people to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    "The study was made for safety and technical reasons, and it doesn't have any religious dimensions," al-Barr said.

    He said the restrictions apply only to the five daily Muslim prayers and that women would be free to roam the premises at will after the prayers and to circle it during the main annual hajj pilgrimage.

    Overcrowding in the Grand Mosque, one of the few places where Muslim male and female worshippers can pray together, has become a chronic problem since the government began issuing open-ended visas several years ago for the minor pilgrimage called omra in Mecca. Mecca is the birthplace of the 7th century Prophet Muhammad.

    That has allowed worshippers to perform the minor pilgrimage throughout the year instead of only at religious occasions. During the main annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, more than 2 million Muslims pour into the holy city, and stampedes at various points of the hajj have killed hundreds of people over the years.

    Al-Barr said the proposed prayer areas for women would be 210 times larger and have a better view of the shrine.

    But historian Hatoon al-Fassi wondered why the study did not restrict men. Plus, she said, such a decision should be made by all the Muslim world, not simply by Saudi authorities.

    "I'm sure the proposal won't be implemented because this is a matter that's of concern to all the Islamic world and not only Saudi Arabia," said al-Fassi.

    The plan has started causing ripples outside the kingdom.

    The Washington-based Muslimah Writers Alliance, an organization of Muslim women writers, is sponsoring an online petition drive against the study.

    "At no other time in history, either before or after the time of the Prophet Muhammad, have women been relegated to lesser advantageous positions within the (mosque)," Aishah Schwartz, the group's director, said in a statement.

    "The proposed plan is no more acceptable today than it would have been when the teachings of Islam began to be delivered over 1400 years ago," she added.

    Saudis consider banning women from Mecca

  • #2

    "behind the proposal insist its real purpose is to lessen the chronic problem of overcrowding, which has led to deadly riots during pilgrimages at Mecca in the past"


    Any problem that arises , their solution is to opress women ...


    • #3
      Now I think the map posted by Fortunato where the holy places would be out of the saudis control is not a bad thing.

      How is it possible that there is no lively mind out there?! with some power that is.

      Sminette, the smilie is my property
      Avant d'ecrire il faut savoir lire,
      et avant de parler, il faut savoir ecouter
      Par El Bachir El Ibrahimi


      • #4
        Rana ga3 mnarveen!!

        Mnarvi -DZ ...if only you knew who hot tempered I am...
        ya yemma ....nothing is working out so far....tried everything ...meditating, yoga, taking herbal tablets etc ..nothing has worked so far.. It's in our Genes my friend! ...if your mum n dad are from DZ ..the moment you come out of your mum's tummy're already mnarvi!!
        If you have a tip to give me ...feel free...I'd be delighted if there is a solution for this..
        Have a good day!


        • #5
          What a despicable proposal!

          Apparently the religious police already put undue pressures on women praying on the white marbled area.

          I remember when my friend returned from Umrah, she told me that she had been given a not so friendly reminder about how 'haraam it is that you are praying here (the white marbled area)' on numerous occasions, and felt so uncomfortable that she felt obliged to pick herself up and move.

          It would be absurd if this became official practice.
          -When the world pushes you to your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray.


          • #6
            overcrowding? well why don't they just restrict the numbers coming for the hajj? allow those who haven't completed hajj first and those who have, if there is a safe number for more then allow them in. Simple really.


            • #7
              Jeddah, 11 Sept. (AKI) - Plans to shift the women's prayer in the Grand Mosque at Mecca to two new alternative sites on the periphery of the huge prayer complex are meeting stiff opposition from Muslim women, the local daily Arab News reports. A petition posted at the website has to date attracted more than 1000 signatures, from Muslim women worldwide. But the religious authorities insist its real purpose is to lessen chronic overcrowding, which has led to deadly stampedes during past pilgrimages at Mecca. The mosque contains the Kaaba, a large stone structure that Muslims around the world face during their daily prayers.

              Behind the petition is Aisha Schwartz, 45, the founder and director of the Muslimah Writers Alliance in Washington DC. Schwartz says that the petition is directed at the authorities in the Kingdom. She told Arab News: "It is an undeniable manifestation of Islamic belief and teaching that we are to uphold what is right and abhor that which is inherently wrong."

              The introduction to the petition states: "The religion of Islam was revealed for both men and women. Both sexes are equal when it comes to the performance of religious duties and in terms of rewards and punishments. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also instructed that women must not be banned from mosques."

              In reaction to the proposed measures, the Muslimah Writers Alliance has set up the Grand Mosque Equal Access for Women Project, which is currently campaigning worldwide and hopes to lobby Saudi authorities to ensure the proposals do not materialize.

              "The fact that the signatures on MWA’s Grand Mosque Equal Access for Women petition are, to date, representative of Muslim voices from 38 different countries and 28 states across North America, is demonstrative of the fact that the issue at hand must not be taken lightly,” said Schwartz.

              Saudi women are also alarmed at the proposal. Suhaila Hammad, research director at the National Society for Human Rights, pointed out that of three million pilgrims visiting the Holy Mosque last year 46 percent were women.

              “This means if they follow the holy book and aim at a sense of equality, 46 percent of the circumambulation area would be exclusively for women. But instead from the 18,000 square meter space, for every man there is 53.06 square cm and for each woman there is 17 square cm,” she said, adding that women's prayer areas should be evenly spread throughout the complex.

              Saudi Arabia: Protests at moving of female prayer area in Grand Mosque


              • #8
                Riyadh, September 11th - - Saudi religious leaders appear to have backtracked on controversial plans to ban women from praying at the centre of the holy shrine in Mecca.

                At present, women can pray in the immediate vicinity of the Kaaba, inside the Grand Mosque which forms the centrepiece of the Haj pilgrimage in Islam.

                But plans by the all-male committee overseeing the holy sites would have placed women in two distant sections of the mosque - overlooking the Kaaba, though at a distance - while men would still be able to pray in the key space.

                'The presidency (committee) decided to adopt a second proposal, which is to expand two special places for women's prayer, in addition to the one that already exists,' Mohammed bin Nasser Al Khozayem, deputy head of Grand Mosque affairs, was quoted a saying in Okaz newspaper.

                'Women have the same right as me (to pray) in the 'sahn' (Kaaba area),' he said.

                'In fact 53 per cent of the mosque's space will now be for women to pray, which is more than men.'

                Women activists in Saudi Arabia said the original plan was discriminatory and had vowed to oppose it.

                A US-based group called the Muslimah Writers Alliance began a Web petition to lobby the authorities against the plans, called 'Project Grand Mosque Equal Access for Women'.

                'We have a right to pray in this space,' its Web site says.

                The clerics said they wanted to reduce crowding for women.

                Clerics backtrack on Makkah access issue


                • #9
                  Saudis and expatriates have welcomed the decision taken by the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs to reject a proposal to shift the women’s prayer area in the mataaf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba). The presidency has also decided to allocate 53 percent of the Grand Mosque to female worshippers.

                  “There is no truth in press reports that the presidency was planning to shift the women’s prayer place in the mataaf to other areas inside the mosque. This was merely based on a proposal (made by a special panel),” Muhammad Nasser Al-Khozaim, vice chairman of the presidency, told reporters.

                  “No change has taken place in the prayer area for women in the mataaf. In fact, we have allocated two more wider spaces overlooking the Kaaba for women to pray,” the official said emphasizing that women were equally entitled to the prayer complex as men.

                  “The presidency has arranged special prayer areas for women during Ramadan and it covers 53 percent of the whole Haram, including the mataaf and three floors,” explained Al-Khozaim, adding that media reports on shifting the prayer place of women from the mataaf to a different area were based on a misunderstanding.

                  The proposal to shift the prayer area drew stiff criticism from Muslim women across the globe. In protest at the proposals, a petition had been posted at the website, which has so far attracted over 1,000 signatures. Mawaheb Ezzulden, a Sudanese pilgrim, told Arab News that many women were crying after they heard that there were plans to stop women from praying in the mataaf area. “I thank the Saudi government and the Two Holy Mosques Affairs for all their efforts in serving pilgrims and visitors. I thank them for allocating more space for women. This is good news for people and shows clearly that Islam is definitely not against women enjoying their rights,” she said.

                  Sultan Abdullah, a Saudi government worker, said that many people attacked Saudi Arabia because of the misunderstanding. Abdullah said: “I wonder what they feel now? As Saudis we will not bother with what the enemies of Saudi Arabia and Islam say and we will continue serving pilgrims to the Two Holy Mosques honorably.” Abdullah added: “It is just unbelievable how much Saudi Arabia came under attack because of a silly misunderstanding. Doesn’t Islam tell them to have good thoughts about people and to not jump to conclusions?”

                  Ghayth Al-Otaibi, a long-time Makkah resident who prays in the Grand Mosque five times a day, laughed when he heard the news. “I knew it was a huge misunderstanding. Look all around you, women are everywhere. It would be crazy to even think such a plan would have materialized.”

                  Suhaila Hammad, research director at the Saudi National Society for Human Rights, told Arab News she was glad women would be able to continue praying in the circumambulation area. “It is simply our right and it is of great joy that we can continue enjoying this right,” she said.

                  Laila Al-Ahdab, an Arab columnist who writes for the Al-Watan newspaper and an advocate of women’s rights in the Kingdom, said she was sure that the authorities would not have gone ahead with the proposals. “The Haram is for Muslims all over the world, men and women. When I first heard about the proposal, I was sure that it would be rejected,” she added.

                  Hammad, who is from Madinah, urged authorities to allocate more space and time at the Prophet’s Mosque for women to pray and visit the Prophet’s grave. “Our Prophet has advised us to pray standing between his grave and his platform, saying it is a garden from the gardens of Paradise. But women are allowed only a limited space in the area to pray,” she said. Speaking about time constraints, she said women are allowed to visit the Prophet’s grave only for five hours a day from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and one hour in the afternoon,” she said.

                  Amira Kashgari, one of the participants in the second National Forum for Dialogue held in Makkah, said she was glad that the “voices of wisdom were victorious at the end.”

                  Sara Yousef, a pilgrim from Egypt, commended the Kingdom’s efforts in the service of pilgrims. “So many millions of people come here, people from all types of backgrounds. The Haram is always kept clean, tidy and the environment is so beautiful. It costs money and a lot of effort to do this. People should appreciate these efforts,” she said.

                  Women welcome rejection of Haram prayer proposal


                  • #10
                    Soon the haj will be aloowed only for the king family, or American`s convert women with lawyers...
                    A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
                    By: George Bernard Shaw


                    • #11

                      Originally posted by FORTUNATO
                      Soon the haj will be aloowed only for the king family, or American`s convert women with lawyers...
                      That's funny Fortunato ...could happen though


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