NEW DELHI, Jan 23: Saudi Arabia’s conservative society is changing “in all aspects”, including posibly allowing women to drive or not covering their faces, and it was wrong to link the terror group ISIS to the kingdom or to its Islamic schools, one of the first of the country’s women legislators on a visit to India said.
“Everyone sees ISIS as a phenomenon and Saudi as its parent. But they are attracting people from all over the world - like Denmark and Australia - who did not study our texts. Not everyone in ISIS is a Saudi and not everyone in Saudi has any link to ISIS... I think there are foreign powers helping it monetarily,” Thuraya al-Arrayed, a member of country’s top advisory body who was among the first crop of women appointed to the Majlis Majlis Al Shura (Consultative Assembly), told IANS in an interview here.
Thuraya was here to attend a West Asia Conference.
Terror group ISIS has many members who are “newcomers to Islam and have nothing to do with our (Saudi) schools (of Islam),” she stated.
Saudi Arabia, which in December held its municipal elections, in which women were allowed to vote and contest for the first time, has caught the attention of the world. But women have been in Saudi Arabia’s political sphere three years earlier with their appointment to the Shura, she said. The decision of late King Abdullah to appoint women to the Shura in 2013, a body which drafts and amends laws and examines the annual reports of the state ministries and departments, “has brought a real change in the behaviour of legislators and society,” Thuraya added.
“People used to pass snickering remarks that ‘when men couldn’t do anything, what can women do’ when women entered the Majlis. But after the first year, we were told by the president of the council that there has been real change in the way legislators were more prepared, and punctual about their jobs,” Thuraya said.
With people “getting used to seeing women in high political positions”, it also helped in the recent municipal elections where many men voted for women, which never happened before, she remarked. She added that conservatism moving into a society is “poisonous” and that it can “kill and divide” it. She also said that there were still a lot of women not convinced about letting women vote and contest, “but 21 women councillors elected in municipal elections is a pretty good number... it shows the change in attitude.” (IANS)