By Ed Attwood
Move follows threats and social media campaigns against the Panda retail chain
Saudi clerics have issued a fatwa ruling that women should not work as cashiers in supermarkets, in a clear challenge to the government’s plans to create more jobs.
News agency AFP quoted the Saudi news website Sabq.org as saying the country’s official fatwa issuing body, the Committee on Scholarly Work and Ifta, had reiterated that it is not permissible for a woman to work in a place where they mix with men.
"It is necessary to keep away from places where men congregate. Women should look for decent work that does not make it possible for them to attract men or be attracted by men," the fatwa said.
The ruling was issued in response to a specific question about whether women cashiers could be employed in supermarkets. It was signed by the head of the Senior Scholars Council, and six other members of the fatwa committee.
The Panda retail chain, which is owned by publically listed food giant the Savola Group, had employed 16 Saudi women as cashiers in its Jeddah store as part of a pilot scheme to test the concept of women working in a mixed environment.
The Savola Group has faced a Facebook campaign from a number of Saudis who have threatened to boycott the shop unless it stops employing women.
“The women, compared to men, are really hard workers," Panda spokesman Tarik Ismail told AFP back in August.
"If everything goes okay, then we will expand the programme [in] the kingdom," he said.
In September, Deputy Minister of Labour Abdul Wahid Al Humaid said the ministry would not be put off by Islamist threats to boycott shops employing women.
Al Humaid also pointed out that women had few employment opportunities and urged people to cooperate with the ministries plans.
The Saudi Minister of Labour is Adel Fakieh, the former chairman of the Savola Group, took over the job after the death of Dr Ghazi Al Gosaibi in August.
Wake up guys! It's the 21st century already!
What do the Saudi women have to say on this issue? If there is equal opportunities and equality between the men and women, why should they be denied of the opportunity to work? Do the clerics want them to sit at home?
Of course the clerics want them to stay at home. They'd like them to be denied an education too.
What do the clerics mean by women should look for decent jobs? Whats so undecent about being a cashier? Every legal job has its own dignity.