Saudi Program Calls for Gender-Mixing, No Prayer Closure

.. by Vivian Nereim

Official document shows government recommendations for change
Kingdom has already lifted ban on cinema, women driving

Female shoppers walk through the Kingdom Centre shopping mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 2, 2016. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A Saudi government program to improve the quality of life in the kingdom called for the legalization of gender mixing and an end to the mandatory prayer closures for businesses, significant steps to ease social restrictions in the conservative country.

The 236-page document sent to reporters Thursday night outlining the government?s new Quality of Life Program called for lobbying to amend the laws, saying the areas ?require immediate regulatory changes.?

Even a recommendation would represent a notable shift in the official rhetoric on two sticky religious issues that could spark a backlash from conservative Saudis. The items were buried on page 156 of the document and were not mentioned during a news conference to announce the program Thursday. They were removed from versions posted online later. Government officials didn?t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Easing social restrictions is a key part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?s push to overhaul the oil-dependent economy and attract foreign investment. The prince?s so-called Vision 2030 seeks to encourage more women to join the workforce and has identified entertainment as one industry with strong growth prospects.

The government has already lifted its longstanding ban on cinemas and women driving and sponsored gender-mixed music concerts. The changes have so far provoked minimal public dissent as the government clamps down on criticism.

Prince Mohammed, in an interview with CBS News program “60 Minutes” broadcast in March, said the kingdom has ?extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place.?

The document sent to reporters called for allowing the ?intermingling of both genders to enhance social cohesion? and legalizing the opening of stores during prayer times, as well as the participation of women in sports in public places. It said that passing new regulations in these areas would improve citizen participation in lifestyle activities and boost investor confidence.

Shops, restaurants, cafes and even pharmacies in the kingdom are required to close several times a day in recognition of Islam?s five daily prayers.

The rules on gender segregation are more varied, with authorities sometimes enforcing separate spaces and entrances for men and women and sometimes enforcing a looser separation between ?single men? and ?families? — meaning any group involving a woman. Recently, some state-sponsored events have had no gender segregation at all? .. Source

3 thoughts on “Saudi Program Calls for Gender-Mixing, No Prayer Closure

  1. Even the Saudis are reforming according to the need of the time, but here, our Mullahs do not want women to come out of their houses and do their own segregated business while observing pardah, let alone gender-mixing. What a shame.

    1. Pardha is part and parcel of Islam , if Saudis could not maintain that to establish good diplomatic relations with USA, that doesn’t mean it was malpractice, or there were flaws in the law. Here i would like to let every reader to know that, one should not get involve in social affairs which are not related to them. One should not worry about others if purdah was none of their business. Even in the modern world one can see some women folk fully covered and others almost necked. Yes i do agree what some Mawlana or Mukho sukies want to enforce things which are not clearly mentioned in Quraan and Hadiths, there is old perception, prevails amongst some Molvies i will call it ?preventive perception? which says that ?stop some evils ahead of time?, which is not applicable in today?s life, like Ismailia?s are not strict about purdha, but if you go to ismaili areas the women always try to hide their faces, that doesn’t mean it is part of Ismailism, So my humble request to everyone is to keep ourselves away from irrelevant activities, and talks. We don?t appreciate anyone who tries to enforce his likes and dislikes on others, there is big difference between failure and miscarriage. What happened in Saudi is not failure it is rather a is miscarriage of Islamic society, rather I would say they are now coming towards the real Islam if they were capable of maintaining limits.

  2. This documents is not simply about gender mixing; its more than that, it is a new social contract where a new social order can be practiced without any conflict or disorder in a modern world. The twenty first century is a challenge for many Muslim countries including KSA. They are facing unprecedented internal and external challenges. So it is the responsibility of the ruling class to understand these enormous cultural dilemmas. They need to rethink and reinvent a social process where these traditional socities can communicate with the modern world.
    MBS understand the situation as time is ripe to take his country in the next stage. He wants to remove the curtain or purdah, an old practice of tribal society, that separates the worlds of men and women, otherwise women themselves rip it down. MBS understands that there is no different Islam in Dubai, as the Amir of Dubai built a modern-society, a paradise in the desert. So it is all about leadership and positive social change

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