SAUDI ARABIA: Cleric calls for Muslim-only maids in Saudi homes
Sheikh Yousuf Ahmad, a lecturer at the prestigious Imam Mohammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, seems concerned about the influx of non-Muslim women household workers into the ultra-conservative kingdom.
When he recently spoke to an Arab news site, Ahmad suggested that only Muslim maids should be allowed into Saudi Arabia for work and that they must be segregated from men in the house to prevent illicit mixing between the sexes.
"If there is a need to import workers as female domestics, they should be Muslims,” the hard-line cleric reportedly told the sabq.org website.
Elaborating on his stance, Ahmad stressed that female housemaids also should wear the Islamic veil while working and that they should be accompanied to the kingdom by a male relative who will serve as their guardian.
“They should be required to work in the home covered with the hijab [veil], and not mix with men in the home, not enter their rooms or the hall or serve them,” he said.
There are an estimated 8 million to 10 million foreign laborers in Saudi Arabia, which has a population of 25 million. Many of them come from predominantly Muslim countries, such as Indonesia. Although segregation between unrelated men and women is enforced by Saudi rules, it is rarely imposed on legions of foreign cooks, drivers, and maids, media reports say.
This is not the first time the Ahmad has made controversial statements. He created a stir a few months ago when he called for the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest site and the world's largest mosque, to be demolished and rebuilt in a way that would ensure segregation between the sexes in the shrine.
Arab media outlets were abuzz with Ahmad's decree. According to media reports, he had suggested that the mosque, which currently consists of three floors, be replaced with a new shrine consisting of up to 30 floors that would be strictly divided between men and women.
Ahmad is also reportedly to once have rolled out an eyebrow-raising fatwa, an Islamic ruling, that called for the killing of any person who allows unmarried men and women to mingle together.
--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Saudi Sheikh Yousuf Ahmad has issued a number of controversial decrees in the recent past. Most recently, he said that foreign maids working in Saudi homes must be Muslim. Credit: Al-Arabiya website.