Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- With the 19th election of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry fast approaching, candidates were eager to publicize the lists they belong to such as the Golden list, the Platinum list, and al Afdal (the best).
Put forward by Hisham Basrah, an imam at the Sayyidah Raqiyah mosque in southern Jeddah, the lists were published on the internet last Monday. The accompanying statement written by the imam opposed the participation of female candidates in Saturday”s elections since it contravened Islamic Sharia (Islamic law).
"I gathered important information on this issue which I addressed in a Friday sermon a few months ago about women”s issues. After the sermon, an honorable member of the audience posted the section about female participation in the Chamber on the internet."
The former teacher of Islamic studies decided to submit a list of candidates after he consulted a number of trusted businessmen. He asked them to propose names of the best independent or coalition candidates, according to certain criteria.
Accordingly, the candidate has to be religiously observant and pious,
sincere and able to devote his time and effort to the Chamber. He should not be known to have committed any sins and he should not support the participation of women in Jeddah”s Chamber of Commerce.
The Imam bases his opposition to the candidacy of women on the need to resist westernization and protect society from the dangerous and corrupt association of women and money. He also warned against encouraging women to take part in public life without consideration for the differences between the sexes.
Asked by Asharq al Awsat about the indirect offense his list might have caused to some candidates, he refused to answer and referred us to his statement above. On the subject of female candidates, Basrah said, "As far as I know, the Chamber did not consult religious figures" in its decision.
When told that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had decided to allow women to run for elections, he replied, "The problem is not in the decisions but in their application."
A total of 12 seats are available with the Golden list succeeding in
publicizing the economic expertise of its candidates and its benefits to Jeddah”s economy.
The candidate Saleh Hafni indicated Saturday”s results would not mirror that of the municipal elections, since the vote in the Chamber of Commerce "ultimately depends on companies and not individuals." His opposition to the use of religion to garner support was echoed by Ibrahim al Rashed, another candidate.
Running on the Platinum list, al Rashed rejected the proposal of setting up a Council of Guardian to assess businessmen, as the rival Golden list has called for, and criticized the preferential treatment some have received. "I intend to file a complaint to the Ministry of Commerce in this respect, to discover who is responsible for this."