Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi caused quite a stir in Saudi Arabia, a nation with a history of oppressing women, when he declared on television that Islam does not mandate that women wear the niqab, or veil, and suggested females should use beauty products. He even allowed his unveiled wife to appear on television.
Saudi paper al-Watan said al-Ghamidi immediately received threats following their appearance on television. Al-Ghamidi said it was “spontaneous” and that he did not pressure the MBC station to allow him to air his unveiled wife. Al-Watan said senior scientists believe al-Ghamidi is wrong because a female’s face is “rougher” and therefore “may be vulnerable to abuse” because the man might be sick in the heart.
Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh told al-Ghamidi to retract and repent for his statements. He said al-Ghamidi was wrong when he said Islam does not specifically say women must cover their faces.
“This is wrong,” said Alsheikh, adding:
Face covering is obligatory in the Shariah. That’s why a man who proposes to a woman can only see her face during engagement. Some of our Muslim brothers, May Allah guide them to the right path, embarrass their wives in front of the public. This act reflects stubbornness on their part. It’s a dangerous thing. I pray to Allah to make them repent and guide everyone to the right path.
This is not the first time the former head of Mecca’s Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (PVPV) committee caused a controversy. In February 2013, al-Ghamadi issued a Fatwa that allowed “women to travel without a male guardian, uncover their faces and eat alongside men.”
“It is permissible for people to look at what is not forbidden in women like their faces and their arms,” he claimed.
In December 2009, when he was head of PVPV, he said Islam actually allows mixing of the sexes.
“Islamic law says nothing about mixing, unlike the numerous laws on things such as divorce, trading and war,” he said. “Mixing of the sexes does not have official laws or concepts. It is dangerous when the term mixing is being connected with the science of Islamic law.” He added that it “affects the heritage of [I]slamic law negatively,” giving it “a fake idea merit.”
In November, the PVPV outlawed females’ “tempting eyes.” These are “uncovered eyes with a nice shape and makeup. Or even without makeup, if they are beautiful, the woman will be in trouble.” A court sentenced a businesswoman to 50 lashes because she cursed at religious police. The organization also passed a law that forbids a woman to attend a doctor’s appointment without a male guardian. But it was the law that forbids women to drive that caused international outrage, especially when Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan said driving harms a woman’s ovaries.
“If a woman drives a car it could have a negative physiological impact,” he said. “Medical studies show that it would automatically affect a woman’s ovaries and that it pushes the pelvis upward. We find that for women who continuously drive cars, their children are born with varying degrees of clinical problems.”