I was so happy that upon hearing this I just wanted to go give him a big bear hug!
Ok maybe that wouldn't be the greatest idea. But you get the idea of how excited I am. This is big news. Saudi women are soon going to participate in decision making in Saudi Arabia. This also gives hope for the future for more decrees like this from the King. (ahem women driving..) Not only the Saudi women but the whole country will benefit from this change.
I guess it's no secret I'm a big fan of the King. He is doing a great job considering the circumstances he has to work under. He has to deal with the heavy pressure from the religious clerics breathing on his back, the mixed public opinions he hears all around, his brothers and other family members on the other side whispering their opinions and demands, his advisors with their own agendas and also his conscious to be the just ruler that is ultimately responsible only to Allah.
It looks like most of the time his ultimate choice has been listening to the heart. That is what makes him so loved by the Saudi people.
The King, estimated to be a staggering 92 years old said in his speech:
"Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with Shariah, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulema and others to involve women in the Shoura Council as members, starting from the next term"
Well it sure took a long time for them to realize they'd been marginalizing women but better late than never I guess.
Personally I think this is great news and indicates that the country is ready to move forward to this millennium. Some others have been more skeptical. People are saying this is not really going to mean anything concrete will happen for improvement of womens rights. Women are not actually going to have any power in the Shoura, but will only be like puppets and all this was done solely for statistics and looks. The Shoura council and municipal election themselves are said to have little or no actual influence on how the country is ruled.
Western media has perhaps deliberately left unsaid that before 2005 Saudis, regardless of gender were in fact not allowed to vote at all. Or in other words, there was nothing to vote for. When they held the municipal elections for the first time it was most likely due to the resource problems (gender segregation) that women weren't included. For the next round in 2015 women will be able to vote as well as run as candidates. That will be very interesting to see.
The King also said in his speech:
"Muslim women in our Islamic history have demonstrated positions that expressed correct opinions and advice"
King Abdullah then gave examples from the times of Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. During the era of the Prophet some women acted as lawyers and people would go to them with complex legal issues, there were female scholars and in general women participated in the society as equals.
It's ironic that the rights given to women by the Prophet over a millenia ago were later taken away by so called religious men and then it took this long for Saudi-Arabia, the birthplace and "model-country" of Islam, to restore some of those rights from times some people refer to as "the Dark Ages". Yet it seems like modern day Arabia is living in a new era of the Dark Age because of how they marginalize women in their societies.
That leads me to think how come major rulings like this can be made, but the problem of women driving still exists? How will the women chosen for Shoura show up for the meetings? Isn't it humiliating if she cannot have the most SIMPLE right of driving, but on the other hand she is able to participate in such an important council?
Is women driving really more momentous than women voting?
What do you think readers? Are the Kings rulings just a way of getting the focus OFF women driving or a prerequisite TO women driving?
As the eternal optimist, I say it's the latter.
More about King Abdullah's mission to improve women's status in the Kingdom: http://blueabaya.blogspot.com/2010/08/king-abdullah-emissary-of-saudi-women.html
Read more on the news:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/26/world/middleeast/women-to-vote-in-saudi-arabia-king-says.html?pagewanted=2&_r=3
From other blogs:Sabrias bloghttp://saudiwriter.blogspot.com/2011/09/saudi-women-demonstrate-they-are.html