Saudi activist Souad al-Shammary was arrested for tweets about Muslim men and beards.
One of the Islamic world’s most outspoken feminists, Souad al-Shammary has been arrested for publicly challenging the belief that growing a beard is an Islamic injunction that was commanded by Prophet Mohammed. Earlier this year, Shammary had created quite a stir among the religious leaders of Saudi Arabia by posting pictures of men from various religions and even atheists sporting beards. Her aim was to show that growing a beard had nothing to do with Islam and was not something that made Muslim men good Muslims. Cries against her came from all quarters of the highly conservative Muslim nation, even from a former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Shammary is one of the most hated figures in Saudi Arabia. Her revolutionary ideas on women-empowerment, separation of state and religion and ending the subjugation of women to men has earned her the hatred of innumerable enemies in Saudi. She was herself born in a conservative Muslim Bedouin household, and began fighting for a more liberal Islam after she was separated from her daughter following her second marriage. Ever since then, Shammary has believed that God cannot be so cruel and conservative Islam is nothing but a distortion of the Quran’s original teachings at the hands of the highly patriarchal and backward-thinking religious leaders of Saudi.
A liberal mother of six jailed for challenging Saudi taboos
— Emma White (@OrganicMirage) November 7, 2016
— Rama Rao (@rama4321) November 8, 2016
The 42-year old feminist has often faced death threats from Islamic clerics. Earlier this year, her co-founder of the website Free Saudi Liberals, Raif Badawi, was arrested and subjected to 1,000 lashes, besides a 10-year prison sentence for setting up the website. It still isn’t known if Shammary will be facing a similar sentence.
Shammary’s radical views pose a very serious threat to the conservative Islamic culture of Saudi Arabia. In fact, Saudi is the only country where women are not even allowed to drive. A few years ago, a group of women who protested this law and drove cars were arrested and punished. Shammary, who has done far worse in the eyes of the Saudi government may soon have to face worse punishments. She has even been barred from leaving the country so she will not be able to escape whatever fate is awaiting her.
For now, the only hope for Shammary’s escape is in letting her story be known to the world.
- Associated Press
- The New Yorker
- Middle East Eye
- The Guardian – “A look at the writings of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi”
- The Guardian – “Dozens of Saudi Arabian women drive cars on day of protest against ban”
- Free Saudi Liberals