Long robes not necessary attire for Saudi women — senior cleric

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars. (video grab)
Updated 11 February 2018

Long robes not necessary attire for Saudi women — senior cleric

DUBAI: Saudi women need not wear the abaya — the loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of religious faith — a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body said, another indication of the Kingdom’s efforts toward modernization.
On his radio show named Friday Studio aired on Neda Al-Islam radio station on Friday Feb. 9, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said Muslim women should dress modestly, but this did not necessitate wearing the abaya.
Friday Studio is a weekly Islamic show that discusses Islamic teachings, answers questions from the audience and issues fatwas by the show’s permanent guest Al-Mutlaq.
“More than 90 percent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas,” Sheikh Mutlaq said on Friday. “So we should not force people to wear abayas.”
While not necessarily signalling a change in the law, the statement is the first of its kind from a senior religious figure. It follows the recent pattern of freedoms the Kingdom has been witnessing with the ascent of young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to power.
Only the government-appointed clerics associated with the Council of Senior Scholars are allowed to issue fatwas, or Islamic legal opinions. Their interpretations of Islamic law form the basis of Saudi Arabia’s legal system.
Saudi women have started wearing more colorful abayas in recent years, the light blues and pinks in stark contrast with the traditional black. Open abayas over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country.
The trend marks a major change in the last couple of years. In 2016, a Saudi woman was detained for removing her abaya on a main street in the capital of Riyadh. Local media reported that she was detained after a complaint was filed with the religious police.
The Kingdom has seen an expansion in women’s rights recently, such as the decision passed to allow women to attend mixed public sporting events and the announcement that Saudi Arabia would grant them the right to drive.
These are some of the many changes the country has undergone in recent months, hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in the deeply conservative Muslim Kingdom.
But despite these changes, the gender-segregated nation is criticized for its continued constraints on women. Activists have blasted the country’s guardianship system which requires a male family member to grant permission for a woman to study abroad, travel and other activities.


Saudi student takes part in international program for COVID-19

The CVT collaborates with Harvard Innovation Labs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Innovation Initiative, the COVID Foundation, and over 20 other organizations. (ReThe CVT collaborates with Harvard Innovation Labs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Innovation Initiative, the COVID Foundation, and over 20 other organizations. (Reuters/File)ters/File)
Updated 04 August 2020

Saudi student takes part in international program for COVID-19

  • Al-Towijri’s CVT role includes writing articles, designing social media posts, and welcoming and guiding new members

JEDDAH: For the last few months, high school student Talal Al-Towijri from Alkhobar has been investing his time during the pandemic to work with students from across the globe to make the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) more understandable to the public, having joined the US-based Coronavirus Visualization Team (CVT).

The CVT is a nonprofit, crowdsourced student network founded at Harvard, seeking to disseminate information surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are a group of over 1,000 skilled and passionate students from different countries across the globe who are working remotely on leveraging data analytics and visualizations for the public about COVID-19’s ongoing impact,” Al-Towijri told Arab News.
The organization was established to combat the current “infodemic,” or information overload, which can be inaccurate and misleading.
“It is a tech-net community of data scientists and analysts, developers and communicators,” said Al-Towijri. “We also work with professors and industry professionals to introduce quality statistics and to better visualize and share the impacts, present and future, of COVID-19.”
Al-Towijri’s CVT role includes writing articles, designing social media posts, and welcoming and guiding new members.
“By joining CVT I felt like I was doing something to help the world instead of sitting around during the lockdown,” he said.
The students’ group works with partners to publicize accurate and digestible information and help organizations fighting on the frontline and developing data-driven policy proposals.
The CVT data visualizations display information from multiple, often overlooked, angles, such as climate implications, socioeconomic factors, and societal aspects.
Moreover, such data analytics can help businesses, nations, and individuals not only understand the disease impact but also to explore coronavirus recovery strategies.
“My team and I are a crowdsourced group of passionate school and university students from around the world who are voluntarily analyzing data on all matters COVID-19 including socioeconomics, census statistics, mental health, and pollution-related data.”
The CVT collaborates with Harvard Innovation Labs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Innovation Initiative, the COVID Foundation, and over 20 other organizations, and is seeking more partnerships around the world, including in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Middle East and North African regions.
Al-Towijri joined when the organization was first launched in April by Harvard student Lucas Chu as a member of the Coronavirus Visualization Community (CVC) before he became a managing member of the CVT itself.

HIGHLIGHTS

•The CVT is a nonprofit, crowdsourced student network founded at Harvard, seeking to disseminate information surrounding the pandemic.

• The CVT data visualizations display information from multiple, often overlooked, angles, such as climate implications, socioeconomic factors, and societal aspects.

The CVT has launched different projects and initiatives, including online events and panels with prominent guests in the field of health and science from top international universities and organizations.
He is very proud of his experience at the CVT. He believes that skilled and passionate high school and university students who are keen to invest their abilities in a rewarding volunteering experience should join such organizations.
He said: “Most students are talented by nature, but they are usually not given chances that could push them out of their comfort zones.”
“Therefore, I believe there should be more student-run organizations in the Kingdom, and there should be more activities for students where they can engage with the community and feel productive, helpful, and powerful,” he added.
 Al-Towijri noted that there is a lack of student-run organizations in the region with sustainable goals and sustainable support from big organizations.
For him, such organizations need support and access to resources as much as they need passionate leaders to help them grow and prosper.
“What distinguishes CVT is that it is crowdsourced and student-run; we are students reporting to students, it is a beautiful community that feels like a family,” he said.
Al-Towijri believes that CVT has a strong potential to expand its reach in the Kingdom by partnering with universities and different companies, as he believes many students in the country are highly skilled and passionate to make the world a better place.
“I want more Arabs and Saudis to join the organization,” he said. “Any student with minimal skills in research and writing can join.”
The CVT can be reached at www.understandcovid.org.