Saudi Arabia’s religious authority has denounced calls for greater women’s rights, asserting that greater rights violate Islamic teachings. The Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh also criticized leading businesswomen for attending an economic conference, stating that, “allowing women to mix with men is the root of every evil and catastrophe – mixing of men and women is a reason for greater decadence and adultery,” reports Reuters.
Lubna Olayan, a leading Saudi businesswoman, opened the economic conference with a call for women’s equality in Saudi Arabia. According to Olayan, her “vision is of a country…in which any Saudi citizen, irrespective of gender, who is serious about finding employment, can find a job in the field for which he or she is best qualified,” reports Reuters. Olayan also asserted that Saudi Arabia needs to embrace change in order to move forward.
According to BBC News, men and women were separated by a screen at the conference. However, the women and men were able to mix in the women’s section, angering several conservatives.