Tuesday, September 12, 2006

speaking of good news... here is some :)


Women Welcome Rejection of Haram Prayer Proposal

Razan Baker, Arab News

JEDDAH, 12 September 2006 — Saudis and expatriates have welcomed the decision taken by the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs to reject a proposal to shift the women’s prayer area in the mataaf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba). The presidency has also decided to allocate 53 percent of the Grand Mosque to female worshippers.

“There is no truth in press reports that the presidency was planning to shift the women’s prayer place in the mataaf to other areas inside the mosque. This was merely based on a proposal (made by a special panel),” Muhammad Nasser Al-Khozaim, vice chairman of the presidency, told reporters.

“No change has taken place in the prayer area for women in the mataaf. In fact, we have allocated two more wider spaces overlooking the Kaaba for women to pray,” the official said emphasizing that women were equally entitled to the prayer complex as men.

“The presidency has arranged special prayer areas for women during Ramadan and it covers 53 percent of the whole Haram, including the mataaf and three floors,” explained Al-Khozaim, adding that media reports on shifting the prayer place of women from the mataaf to a different area were based on a misunderstanding.

The proposal to shift the prayer area drew stiff criticism from Muslim women across the globe. In protest at the proposals, a petition had been posted at the http://www.petitiononline.com/ website, which has so far attracted over 1,000 signatures. Mawaheb Ezzulden, a Sudanese pilgrim, told Arab News that many women were crying after they heard that there were plans to stop women from praying in the mataaf area. “I thank the Saudi government and the Two Holy Mosques Affairs for all their efforts in serving pilgrims and visitors. I thank them for allocating more space for women. This is good news for people and shows clearly that Islam is definitely not against women enjoying their rights,” she said.

Sultan Abdullah, a Saudi government worker, said that many people attacked Saudi Arabia because of the misunderstanding. Abdullah said: “I wonder what they feel now? As Saudis we will not bother with what the enemies of Saudi Arabia and Islam say and we will continue serving pilgrims to the Two Holy Mosques honorably.” Abdullah added: “It is just unbelievable how much Saudi Arabia came under attack because of a silly misunderstanding. Doesn’t Islam tell them to have good thoughts about people and to not jump to conclusions?”

Ghayth Al-Otaibi, a long-time Makkah resident who prays in the Grand Mosque five times a day, laughed when he heard the news. “I knew it was a huge misunderstanding. Look all around you, women are everywhere. It would be crazy to even think such a plan would have materialized.”

Suhaila Hammad, research director at the Saudi National Society for Human Rights, told Arab News she was glad women would be able to continue praying in the circumambulation area. “It is simply our right and it is of great joy that we can continue enjoying this right,” she said.
Laila Al-Ahdab, an Arab columnist who writes for the Al-Watan newspaper and an advocate of women’s rights in the Kingdom, said she was sure that the authorities would not have gone ahead with the proposals. “The Haram is for Muslims all over the world, men and women. When I first heard about the proposal, I was sure that it would be rejected,” she added.

Hammad, who is from Madinah, urged authorities to allocate more space and time at the Prophet’s Mosque for women to pray and visit the Prophet’s grave. “Our Prophet has advised us to pray standing between his grave and his platform, saying it is a garden from the gardens of Paradise. But women are allowed only a limited space in the area to pray,” she said. Speaking about time constraints, she said women are allowed to visit the Prophet’s grave only for five hours a day from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and one hour in the afternoon,” she said.

Amira Kashgari, one of the participants in the second National Forum for Dialogue held in Makkah, said she was glad that the “voices of wisdom were victorious at the end.”

Sara Yousef, a pilgrim from Egypt, commended the Kingdom’s efforts in the service of pilgrims. “So many millions of people come here, people from all types of backgrounds. The Haram is always kept clean, tidy and the environment is so beautiful. It costs money and a lot of effort to do this. People should appreciate these efforts,” she said.