2005 News Story

Shura Council not yet ready for women members or elections

Chairman of the Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura) Dr Saleh bin Humaid, at a press conference in Riyadh yesterday, stated that participation of women as members and holding elections for membership were not on the agenda for the new session due to begin in three months’ time.

Dr bin Humaid commented that the Shura Council had always, since its inception, sought input from women on topics of concern to them, but in an advisory capacity, not as members. Anybody, he said, can be called upon to assist the Council, with no distinction between the sexes. As for the relevant jurisprudence [fiqh] concerning women’s participation in the Shura Council, he admitted that earlier, the Kingdom’s Muslim scholars [ulama] ruled this not permissible; but the current scholars have ruled it permissible. Both opinions are consistent with fiqh schools of thought, and both have supportive evidence from Islamic Law [shariah].

As for holding elections for membership, Dr bin Humaid said that although the issue was not officially on the table, the Shura Council is open to any reform or change, and has spearheaded such reforms and changes in its vision for the State as well as for the Council. He went on to observe that the proposed increase in the number of members from 120 to 150 reflects the concept of enhancing popular participation. This step, he said, will facilitate in-depth decision-making by the Council.