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Friday, August 27, 2010 12:22:34 AM, IANS

Fatwas only by senior scholars: Saudi Ruler

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Riyadh: One of Saudi Arabia's largest supermarket chains has reversed a decision to employ female cashiers, in a religious dispute which saw the king issue a reprimand Thursday to a conservative scholar.

Facing pressure from strict religious groups, the Panda group, owned mostly by Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal, said it would not continue to employ the 11 women.

Yousef al Ahmed, a conservative scholar, used an appearance on a satellite television station recently to call for a boycott of the chain if it did not remove the women from their jobs.

A group on Facebook, the international social networking Website, joined his cause and started a petition against the cashiers.

While Panda backtracked and the women left the tills, King Abdullah issued a strong reprimand of Al-Ahmed. The monarch also demanded he stop issuing religious decrees, or fatwas, without approval from the official Saudi Institute for Religious Scholars.

Earlier this month, King Abdullah issued a decree that allows only officially-appointed scholars to issue public fatwas, in the kingdom's first such large-scale reform of the rulings.

The monarchy was also mulling the idea of setting up an official television channel and radio station for accredited Muslim scholars to issue fatwas.

Saudi's economy allows for women to work in only specific sectors, including education, banking, and medicine. They face other restrictions, such as not being allowed to drive motor vehicles.





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