Following are excerpts from a TV debate on women appearing on Saudi TV, which aired on LBC TV on March 25, 2007.
Interviewer: Does the appearance of Saudi women on TV run counter to Islamic law?
Saudi cleric Nasser Al-Huneini: What we want is for women [to reveal] their culture and intellect. We want women to play a role in the development of society. But a woman who insists upon appearing on TV insists upon showing her body. Why do we act unjustly towards women by saying that we can only benefit from them by presenting them to people this way?
Interviewer: How did you feel when you read about the debate in the Saudi Shura Council about the appearance of Saudi women in the media?
Saudi newscaster Buthayna Nasser: I felt a sense of injustice and indignation, of course.
Nasser Al-Huneini: On the issue of the hijab, all religious scholars are in agreement that if revealing a woman's face might lead to temptation and other things, it is forbidden. In addition, even when they permitted the revealing of the woman's face, they placed restrictions on this. Even Sheik Al-Albani did so. They stated that only the face and the palms may be exposed. The woman is not allowed to expose her neck or her hair. She is not allowed to appear with make-up or jewelry. The religious scholars have all agreed upon this.
Buthayna Nasser: Sir, when I appear on TV, and when I claim my right to play a role in this professional field, I demand that my face, which constitutes my identity, be seen. Under no circumstances am I prepared to allow my identity to be obliterated.
Who are these people who wish to decide for me how I should behave? Why do you treat me as less qualified just because I am a woman? Why is there always a male voice deciding how I should behave? The Lord created me equal to you in my duties, punishment, and reward. When you fast, I fast. When you pray, I pray. When you steal, your hand is cut off, and when I steal, my hand is cut off. This is the greatest evidence that I am not less qualified. I know what I am doing, and I know how to maintain my honor.
Walid wondered how I, as a newscaster, can describe Saudi society as being brainwashing. There is nothing to be surprising about, Dr. Walid. From the age of six or seven, from elementary school until high school, when we reach the age of 18, and even later, when we go to university - we memorize, memorize, and memorize. Whoever dares to argue or to question anything is called upon to ask for Allah's forgiveness. He is told that this will get him into Hell. You, who frighten people with Hell, have brought them a hell upon earth. You have banned books of the various intellectual streams. You've prevented the mind from operating, thinking, comparing, and choosing, even though it is the same mind that the Creator gave people in order to choose between Paradise and Hell. Our Lord honored Man by giving him the freedom to choose his path in this life, and the consequences are revealed in the world to come. Deeds are measured by the intent, and, as the Great Teacher taught us, good intentions steer our behavior. Yes sir, we are being brainwashed on a daily basis, through schools, through the Koran memorization schools. We always demand that these schools not be places of memorization, but for places for teaching, for interpretation, and for learning the keys to the Arab language, which is the secret to understanding the Koran and mysteries. Enough memorizing like parrots. Yes, we are all brainwashed, except for the few spared by God.