Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Segregated prayer?

An all-male committee of Saudi clerics recently pushed to ban women from praying at the Kaaba - part of the Haj pilgrimage - due to overcrowding. They backtracked on the proposition however, and actually expanded two areas for women's prayer. While the segregation of prayer sites seems ridiculously sexist to most Westerners, does the fact that they have bowed (slightly) to pressure by women activists reveal a growing sense of gender equality in Saudi Arabia?
It seems a small step to me, but a step in the right direction. Obviously, the culture is still offensively sexist, but perhaps this aversive reaction to the clerics will spark further efforts to treat women as equals in all facets of life, not just religion. What do you think?

3 comments:

jamie s said...
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jamie s said...

I am going to play devil's advocate and point out the fact that Orthodox Jews have always separated men and women during prayer. Although there are aspects of Judaism that could be considered sexist, in this case the division is mostly to avoid distraction during ones time of religious reflection. It allows for clarity and focus without the threat of temptation. In terms of abuses due to sexism, I feel that this is not one of the larger evils.

Elle said...

I agree with Hasty. I think that this represents a small step in the right direction for the recognition of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. The fact that the women protested and then the policy was changed truely represents a type of political activisim which is very important. I laud the Saudi Arabian women and the men who recognized their point of view.