A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.
Hoo-boy, I hadn’t heard about this until just now—this guy was in charge of the Commission in Mecca. As you can imagine (and as the title indicates) all hell broke loose.
The article is a good read as it provides a look into Saudi culture, something we here in the West rarely see the details of, and even more rarely understand. It also illustrates that, as with all other groups of humans, there is a latitude of individuality with regard to what’s acceptable and what isn’t. This holds true even amongst Wahhabis, as evidenced in the author’s discussion with Hisham al-Sheikh, who you’ll meeet in the article and who’s a sixth-generation descendant of Mohammed ibn Abdul-Wahhab.
Granted, Mr. al-Sheikh’s notion that he’s “an open-minded person” probably won’t jibe even remotely with my definition of open-mindedness (or yours, dear reader), but nonetheless it goes to show that there is no monolithic interpretation of Islam.
For years, Mr. Ghamdi stuck with the program and was eventually put in charge of the Commission for the region of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Then he had a reckoning and began to question the rules. So he turned to the Quran and the stories of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, considered the exemplars of Islamic conduct. What he found was striking and life altering: There had been plenty of mixing among the first generation of Muslims, and no one had seemed to mind.
So he spoke out. In articles and television appearances, he argued that much of what Saudis practiced as religion was in fact Arabian cultural practices that had been mixed up with their faith.
There was no need to close shops for prayer, he said, nor to bar women from driving, as Saudi Arabia does. At the time of the Prophet, women rode around on camels, which he said was far more provocative than veiled women piloting S.U.V.s.
He even said that while women should conceal their bodies, they needed to cover their faces only if they chose to do so. And to demonstrate the depth of his own conviction, Mr. Ghamdi went on television with his wife, Jawahir, who smiled to the camera, her face bare and adorned with a dusting of makeup. […]