Saudi preacher Yusuf al-Ahmed slammed stores that hire women cashiers and called upon shoppers to boycott them on the grounds that their owners violate Islamic teachings and promote Westernization.
The recent appointment of several female cashiers in Panda Shopping Centers, owned by the Savola Group, led Sheikh al-Ahmed, who is also a professor at the Imam Mohamed bin Saud Islamic University, to issue a fatwa banning the practice.
"This is prohibited because it is part of the Western project that is imposing itself upon our society," he said in an interview with a fatwa show. "This is a project of hypocrites and has to be stopped."
Ahmed said he contacted those in charge of the "project" and conveyed to them the concerns of the society about hiring women cashiers, but their response was "inappropriate."
"I am surprised at support the administration of this place is getting. Is this project directly backed by the United States?"
Ahmed called upon Muslims to boycott Banda Shopping Centers in all of Saudi Arabia and sue them if they do not stop.
"Boycotting is one of the legitimate ways of fighting those who violate Islamic teachings and come up with novelties imported from the West and it was sanctioned by scholars and the prophet."
Before starting the boycott, Ahmed suggested, the stores should first be given some time to redress their mistakes. If they don't, the boycott should start.
"If we stand still while this is happening, it will spread and the Westernized will get the opportunity to implement their project."
In line with labor regulations
Qasei Felali, head of the labor office in Jeddah, announced earlier the appointment of female cashiers in grocery stores after the holy month of Ramadan.
The new decision, Felali argued, gives customers the right to choose whether they need to deal with male or female cashiers and offers women more job opportunities.
"Women will be allowed to take part in several fields after they were only confined to a few government jobs," he said in a statement.
Dr. Mohamed Amin Qashqari, assistant managing director for retail in Savola Group, said that al-Azizia Banda group, which runs the shopping centers, already hired 16 women for the cashier job in one of its branches in Jeddah.
"More than 2,500 other girls will be hired shortly in branches all over the kingdom," he told Okaz newspaper. "Their salaries will reach 3,000 riyals per month."
Qashqari added that the decision to hire female cashiers was taken after the approval of the relevant authorities was granted to the group.
"Their appointment is in accordance with all labor regulations in the kingdom. It is also in line with the government's policy of offering more jobs for women."
When asked about the reason for hiring a limited number of girls in the beginning, Qashqari replied that since the job is new for women, it had to be put to the test before applying it in the entire kingdom.
"We first hired those 16 in Jeddah and put them in different shifts. The experiment was very successful and customers seem to like it especially women."
Fatwa chaos slammed
Ahmed's fatwa comes in the wake of a decision issued by Saudi king Abdullah to restrict the issuing of fatwas to members of the Senior Scholars Council and the preachers they nominate.
The decision was welcome all over the Arab and Muslim world and was greeted as the ideal solution for the "fatwa chaos" that has been recently prevalent especially on private satellite channels.
Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Preaching and Guidance Sheikh Saleh bin Abdul Aziz Al al-Sheikh called upon all preachers that appear in shows on satellite channels to obtain permission from the kingdom's Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz before issuing fatwa to the public.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)