The announcement by King Abdullah that the prohibition that restricts the involvement of women in politics will finally see an end in 2015 can be seen as nothing less than the pivotal transformation that will reshape the entire Middle East by the end of the decade.
“Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics and others… to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from next term,” he said. “Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote.”
For many, these words seem like the Saudi leadership is playing a dangerous game of technicalities with the prevailing Sharia Law in an effort to put down the underground insurgency fighting for equality in the predominantly patriarchal society; but human rights groups are cautiously optimistic that this announcement marks the beginning of a much larger societal transformation that will ripple through many generations to come.
The real truth is, regardless of the motivation, King Abdullah has put in motion a movement that cannot be undone and will not be contained within the borders of his proud Islamic country. He may be hoping that this move will insulate his country from the unrest, protests, violence, and upheaval being experienced in surrounding regions, but in the end, this single act of equality will prove to be the defining moment of the Middle East human rights revolution and go down in history as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Saudi Arabia may have avoided a bloody revolution, but they did not avoid the revolution that is coming.
In 2015, when the vote is officially bestowed on women, the balance of power will shift in that region – not the power of government, but the power over the heart of the people – particularly women. No matter how you slice it, the predominant interpretation of many of the Islamic and Shuria Laws are oppressive and abusive to women – with the intent of stifling self-expression and diminishing their worth and value – both personally and in society.
The freedom to vote and participate in government will ignite a fire in the very depths of their soul that will eventually burn through centuries-old dogma and oppression to make way for a new society built on equality for all – not just women, but all people. In this simple act women are tacitly being told that they have value – they can make a real and meaningful contribution to the political conversation; and much like the process of women’s suffrage in the Great Britain and The United States, transformation will not be quick or easy, but once it’s started, the movement will not be stopped.
History has shown us that the expression of human rights and equality is a revolutionary force that cannot be stopped until all are equal under the law. Even now, there are those in the United States who are fighting the continued expression of equality and human rights. They seem unable or unwilling to see that the movement to abolish slavery, give women the vote, end segregation and apartheid, gay marriage equality, and the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell are all part of the same equality wave that began at the dawn of humanity. This constantly evolving movement is at the heart of humanity and there cannot be peace in this world until all people are treated with respect, dignity, and equality.
Throughout the history of mankind every conflict, battle, and war has been the result of inequality – one side fighting the other for supremacy, dominance, and control while undermining the divine diversity that unites humanity. That war can be physical and cost the lives of millions of innocent people, as we see every day around the world, or it can be a battle in the very heart of an individual who does not recognize that they are worth more than the abuse, oppression, and subjugation of their circumstances.
Make no mistake, the continued movement of equality will ultimately win out in the battle for the human heart. The victory in Saudi Arabia is only the first wall to crumble in a revolution that will transform humanity forever.