Is it wrong to send Saudi women to study abroad?

Can you imagine what would have happened if the government had decided against girls’ education 50 years ago?

Ali Al-Shiraimi


Can you imagine what would have happened if the government had decided against girls’ education 50 years ago? Where would we be today if the government had supported the extremists who were totally against education for girls?

A Saudi scholar, who is also an academician, wrote on his Twitter account: “The Minister of Higher Education and the vice-chancellors of the universities should be God-fearing and should stop sending our Muslim women on scholarships to study abroad. If our Muslim women study abroad, they will be subjected to sedition in their religion and chastity.”

The man also wrote: “It is astonishing that this vice is being imposed on our Muslim women. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who initiated the scholarship program, will never agree to forcing women to go abroad to study under his scholarship program if they do not want to go.” The scholar asked female students to be faithful to their religion and to refuse to travel abroad for study even if they are threatened with being sacked by their universities. “If you are dismissed by the university just because you have refused to travel abroad for study, you will be rewarded for your sacrifice. Your dismissal will be a medal on your chest. History will record the brave Islamic stand which you have taken,” he said.

This statement is similar to those of half a century ago when many extremists went to late King Faisal strongly denouncing the opening of girls’ schools. Just imagine what would have happened if the government had listened to them.

I think this kind of talk today is shear madness. Isn’t the attitude of those scholars who oppose sending Saudi women abroad for study the same as the attitude of the Taliban regarding girls’ education when they ruled Afghanistan?

The Taliban were supported in their stand by some scholars and academicians in the Gulf region. The fatwas (religious edicts) issued by the Taliban against girls’ education were a real nightmare for the Afghan people who were aspiring for progress and development. The Taliban used to spray acid on the faces of female students to deform them and destroy their appearance. In 2007, the Taliban destroyed 117 girls’ schools and closed down 200 others. The Taliban promised a reward of $1,000 to anyone who killed a female schoolteacher.

The Taliban turned Afghanistan into a real hell. They made everyone miserable and desperate, especially women who were deprived of their God-given right to education.

However, let’s us go back to the Saudi scholar who said that it is a crime to send Muslim women to study abroad. In my opinion the man, who is an academician, is ignorant of the rules and regulations of higher education.

Universities do not force any woman to accept the position of lecturer or teaching assistant if she does not want to. The job has its requirements. These include going on to obtain master’s or Ph.D degrees in their field of specialization. If a woman cannot obtain those degrees in the Kingdom, she is obliged to go abroad to study. A woman who is not willing to do so should not apply for or accept an academic position in a university.

This scholar is the same man who said that anyone supporting gender mixing in education and work should be executed. He said that anyone who would support such things should be considered kafir (an infidel) and therefore killed. He also recently objected to the introduction of sports in girls’ schools. The man used a Twitter account to broadcast his questionable ideas. Does he not realize that Twitter is itself  a Western invention and, therefore, should not be used by Muslims? Has he forgotten that the microphone he uses to spread his weird ideas is kafir as it is also a Western product?

What about his car which was manufactured by the kafirs? What about his shamagh (the headscarf commonly worn by Arab men)?  Was it not made in Britain?

In his tweets, the false sheikh spoke highly about democracy and freedom. But is it democratic to criticize the scholarship program under which more than 150,000 Saudi men and women are currently doing their higher studies abroad? Is it not democratic and fair to speak about Saudi women who have been decorated and honored abroad for their academic excellence? In the opinion of many, this man is from another age.