More freedom to women; Saudi Arabia moving away from Wahabi Islam

Is Saudi Arabia making a departure from primitive Wahabi version of Islam? A slew of revolutionary changes has taken place in the most regressive state ever since the new king took over and made his son the crown prince. For instance, practicing yoga was considered heretical and liable to imprisonment. Now, Yoga is accepted as a sports activity and people are free to practice it for their benefit.

In the past two years there have been many changes. Since June this year, the government lifted ban on driving by women. Now Saudi women do not need male companion or guardian to travel. Aimed at ushering in gender equality, the new rule allows women above 21 years of age to apply for a passport without authorisation from male family members.

Another new rule allows Saudi women to register births, marriage or divorce. The Islamic republic has eased other many other social restrictions on women. “In next ten years, Saudi Arabia will be a liberal country like any other. Salafism (extremist Islamism) is a bad word now and could be arrested,” said a Saudi woman who doesn’t want to be quoted.

However, women rights organisations argue that more needs to done to realise the dream of gender equality. According to them, changes are too little because societal changes are hard to come by.