Kuwaiti officers refuse to salute female superiors
Ministry denies reports of monetary alternatives to salutes
Male officers in the Kuwaiti army have expressed embarrassment at having to salute female superiors as the interior ministry denied rumors it was considering offering monetary compensation to female officers in return for not demanding to be saluted by male officers.
According to reports in local media, the Ministry of Interior was looking into alternatives after receiving complaints from male officers. One suggestion was to give each female officer an allowance of 50 dinars ($172) in return for not making male officers of lower ranks salute them.
Another option mentioned was to penalize any officers who refuse to abide by military rules, though there were concerns this could potentially lead some men not to join the army and put the ministry in an even more awkward position.
The ministry, however, denied reports it is considering alternatives to the saluting controversy.
"The ministry treats men and woman equally," an official with the ministry, Colonel Mohamed al-Sabr, told AlArabiya.net. "The salute is done in respect to rank and not individuals."
The controversy started with statements by the head of the GCC Sharia Scholars Union Dr. Ajil al-Nashmi in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Watan where he said women can only join the military in limited circumstances
"Women can join the military in cases like searching other women at the airport or on the borders," he told the paper. "Otherwise, it is not recommended."
The Kuwait Human Rights Society (KHRS) objected to Nashmi's statements, which came two years after women were allowed to join the military.
"This fatwa has no reasoning in religion and violates the principle of equality granted by the constitution," the rights group said in a statement.
It added that while the Gulf emirate is developing and women are making greater contributions in various fields, this fatwa, or religious ruling, tarnishes the country’s image and hinders its growth.
"We have to resist such views. We call upon the authorities to make sure that no fatwas issued are in contradiction to the teachings of Islam or the rights granted by the constitution," the statement said.
KHRS Deputy Chairman Maha al-Berjes objected to fatwas based on customs and traditions and not religion.
"If everyone issues fatwas according to traditions, we'll live in chaos as if we're in a jungle," she said.
Berjes also denied that KHRS only supports the more liberal members of Kuwait’s government.
"We are against all types of violations regardless of political affiliations, and we are not intimidated by criticism from Islamists. Those who work in human rights should not be intimidated," she concluded.
If everyone issues fatwas according to traditions, we'll live in chaos as if we're in a jungle
Maha al-Berjes, KHRS Deputy Chairman
Meanwhile, professor of Islamic law Dr. Saad al-Anzi said women should not join the military except in emergencies like during war.
"In this case, the role of women should be confined to offering medical services and not to engage in fighting," he told AlArabiya.net. "They shouldn't mingle with men."
Anzi added that military salutes are not Islamic to begin with and that women should refrain from entering public life.
"It is better to stop women from joining the military. This does not suit them physically and their normal place is at home."
Anzi referred to equality between men and women as a “novelty” imported from the West and stressed that it goes against Islamic laws.
"The idea of equality between men and women needs to be reviewed," he said.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)
It is better to stop women from joining the military. This does not suit them physically and their normal place is at home
professor of Islamic law Dr. Saad al-Anzi