According to Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrack, if you let your daughter go to KAUST or work in a mixed-sex office, you’re a pimp (of a sort). This is the sheikh who, in 2008, called for two Saudi reporters to be executed for apostasy when they suggested that there were various forms of Islam alive and well in the Kingdom. The sheikh’s comments, reported by Reuters, were carried on Al-Arabiya TV’s broadcasts and website. [Thanks to Svend for the pointer.]
RIYADH (Reuters) – A prominent Saudi cleric has issued an edict calling for opponents of the kingdom’s strict segregation of men and women to be put to death if they refuse to abandon their ideas.
Shaikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak said in a fatwa the mixing of genders at the workplace or in education “as advocated by modernisers” is prohibited because it allows “sight of what is forbidden, and forbidden talk between men and women”.
“All of this leads to whatever ensues,” he said in the text of the fatwa published on his website (albarrak.islamlight.net).
“Whoever allows this mixing … allows forbidden things, and whoever allows them is an infidel and this means defection from Islam … Either he retracts or he must be killed … because he disavows and does not observe the Sharia,” Barrak said.
“Anyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attend mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honour and this is a type of pimping,” Barrak said.
Saudi Gazette carries an article—two, actually—that appear to be trying to put the sheikh’s comments into some sort of context less incendiary than the obvious:
JEDDAH – “Extreme fatwas have come to the fore once again, but this time they’ve been met with condemnation in religious and cultural circles”.
So began a report in Al-Watan Arabic daily on Wednesday following the publication of a fatwa the previous day by Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Nasser Al-Barrak on his official website deeming lawful the killing of anyone permitting “ikhtilat” – mixing of the sexes – in the workplace or in a place of education.
Al-Watan said that “observers were surprised to see the fatwa issued in his name, in which he says: ‘anyone permitting ikhtilat – or ikhtilat that leads to forbidden things – is permitting these forbidden things, and anyone who permits them is a kafir (unbeliever), making him an apostate, and he should be ‘tried’ and if he doesn’t retract his words then it is a duty to kill him”.
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Turaiqi, a professor at the Higher Institute of the Judiciary, however, told Al-Watan that the fatwa represented an “extremist view” and was an “error”, given that Sheikh Al-Barrak is “well-regarded” in Shariah circles.
According to Sheikh Al-Turaiqi, “differences of opinion between academics over the meaning of ‘ikhtilat’, some of them extremist and others tolerant, is only natural”.
To my eye, this seems to be an attempt to shield the sheikh from his own words. It is clear that Sheikh al-Barrak has had an illustrious career and is respected by religious scholars. It also seems clear to me that Sheikh al-Barrak is losing his grip. He is elderly and retired from his position as a professor at Imam Mohammed bin Saud university, a faculty not noted for its love of liberality. The article does make clear, however, that al-Barrak was speaking on his own, outside the official route the Ulema prefer for issuing fatawa. Thus, it should be ignored.
So, his peers are not going to cut him off at the knees. Instead, they’re just going to push him into the closet and hope everyone forgets his indiscretions.
Unlike Sheikh Sa’ad Al-Shethri, sacked from his position on the Board of Senior Ulema for a similar fatwa, al-Barrak has no official position from which he can be removed. At most, his government pension could be pulled, but that’d be deemed unduly harsh.
Saudi Gazette also runs a brief piece that provides a fuller expression of the sheikh’s thinking:
Al-Barrak’s fatwa also said…
“Ikhtilat (mixing of the sexes) in places of work or education – which is what the modernists want – is haram, because it involves looking incorrectly at a member of the opposite sex which is haram, adorning and displaying one’s beauty, which is haram, women uncovering the face which is haram, being with unrelated members of the opposite sex in seclusion which is haram, and talk of a haram nature between men and women, all of which is a channel leading to other things.”
“The modernists who want this sort of ikhtilat are disposed to the kaafir lifestyle of the West, have Westernized mindsets, and want to Westernize the Ummah. They want people to be led by desires.”
The paper adds a short listing of recent fatawa calling for the death of particular sinners: