Riyadh: Saudi newspapers ran front page
pictures on Friday of King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan bin
Abdul Aziz in a crowd of women with their faces bared, adding
fuel to the growing fight over mixing in the kingdom.
The undated photograph showed the kingdom`s two most
powerful men together with more than three dozen smiling women
at a seminar on health and the community in the southwestern
city of Najran held several weeks ago.
The photograph was published in several leading
newspapers including Okaz, Ashahrq al-Awsat and Al-Watan, each
with a close link to senior members of the ruling royal
No reason was given for why the picture was published
only now; accompanying text gave a routine description of the
theme of the conference.
But the photo appeared amid a mounting and increasingly
open debate over the country`s harsh ban on unrelated women
and men mixing together enforced by ultra-conservative Saudi
In the past 10 days the outspoken head of the Mecca
branch of the Saudi religious police, who enforce official
Islamic morality, was fired and then mysteriously reinstated
after he broke ranks to say that there was nothing in
Islamic tradition and law banning mixing.
Newspapers reported vaguely that a high-level figure had
intervened to save Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, after the president
of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention
of Vice, or religious police, signed and published an
order naming his replacement.