A prominent Saudi 'self-help' writer has triggered a fierce debate by urging his Twitter followers to 'sexually harass' women working as cashiers in big grocery stores, local daily Gulf News reported on Wednesday.
Abdullah Mohammad Al Dawood, who has more than 97,000 Twitter followers, used the hashtag #harass_female_cashiers and made the comments in an attempt to "encourage" Saudi Arabian women to stay at home and protect their chastity.
Dawood's campaign against Saudi Arabia's moves to encourage women to work in grocery stores has lead some Twitter users to denounce him.
The doors of Jahanam are wide open and ready for you Abdullah Mohammad Al Dawood #harass_female_cashiers— ummu (@ummutaj) May 29, 2013
Dawood justified his tweet by citing a story from the early days of Islam about a famous warrior, Al Zubair, who did not want his wife to leave home to pray in the mosque.
According to Dawood, Zubair hid in the dark one night and molested his wife in the street. The wife rushed home and decided against leaving her house again.
She apparently realised “there is no safer place than home and the world out there is corrupt”, the report said.
Khalid Ebrahim Al Saqabi, a conservative cleric, supported Dawood’s calls and said a law proposed by the Saudi government against sexual harassment at workplace was “only meant to encourage consensual debauchery”.
The government of Saudi Arabia is keen to get more women into work to help reduce unemployment and the annual social benefits bill.
Progress has been slow in many sectors, however, with women held back not just by familial conservatism but by practical problems such as the ban on female drivers.