A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council.
Derogatory terms such as "prostitutes" and "the filth of society" were used to describe the highly-achieved female academics and technocrats who were only sworn into the Council a few days after a highly-acclaimed Royal Decree was issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
The tweets quickly became widely-spread through the social media network and rapidly developed their own hash-tags; however, many Saudi tweeps condemned the attack on the female Shura members, especially since they came from figures who are supposed to preach tolerance, compassion and respect.
Among the clerics who resorted to insults was member of the Islamic Ministry for Da’wah, Guidance and Endowments, Ahmed Al-abedulqader expressed his discontent of women partaking a role in the Shura Council over his Twitter account, “They thought they can mock the mufti by giving these 'prostitutes' legitimacy to be in power. I am not an imposter, and imposters do not fool me. For how long will the forts of virtues be torn down?”
Following angry reactions by Twitter users, Qader said: “We have heard and read many insults against (God) as well as mockery against the prophet, prayer be upon him, and none of those defending (these female) members was angered.”
For his part, Dr. Saleh al-Sugair, a former teaching assistant at King Saud University slammed the assignment of female members at the council and tweeted: “The insolent (women) wearing make-up at the Shura Council represent the society? God, no. They are the filth of society.”
This wasn't the first controversial statement by al-Sugair, who is not a cleric but a medical doctor known for extreme religious views.
Last year, he called for a complete separation in medical colleges between male students and female students.
He spoke on what appeared to be a religious program saying “why do you need to employ females when we have unemployed males who are providing for their families” and he added “what is the point of having a male doctor with a female secretary?”
He insisted that there is no need to have female receptionists in hospitals and especially in male sections.
Sugair has over 40 thousand followers on twitter and is known for advocating against women employment, women driving, and women treating male patients.
A few days ago, another controversial Saudi cleric also attacked the decision to appoint female members to the Shura Council, following an interview published in local Saudi daily where two of the newly appointed female members revealed that they intended to discuss the ban on women driving in the Kingdom.
“Corrupt beginnings lead to corrupt results”, tweeted Sheikh Nasser al-Omar warning of more of what he described as “Westernization.”
However, the backlash to the recent statements regarding the Shura Council appointees was severe.
Author Maha al-Shahri tweeted: “(These statements) are a moral crime. The government has to set laws to (teach) them and their likes (morals).”
Another Twitter user, Abdelrahman al-Sobeyhi, tweeted: “Every disease has a medicine to heal it except stupidity.”
Another user, Ali Abdelrahman, wrote: “This is ignorance that does not belong to Islam.”
“The problem is that they think they have immunity from God!” another twitter user said.
A royal decree last month amended two articles in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.
The council was sworn in last week.
The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king - and until recently were exclusively male - works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws which would be presented to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.
Previously, the European Union has welcomed Saudi King Abdullah’s recent decree allowing women to be members of in the kingdom’s Shura Council for the first time as a major development in the direction of women empowerment.
“We welcome the announcement made by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday Jan. 11 to appoint 30 women to the country's previously all-male Shura Council,” according to statement by Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the European Commission.