Saudi king dismisses conservative adviser

May 12, 2012 - 8:46 AM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has dismissed a controversial ultraconservative adviser after he publicly criticized reforms aimed at easing restrictions on women, the kingdom's state media reports.

Sheik Abdul-Mohsen al-Obeikan had told a local radio station that officials were working to Westernize and secularize the country's laws by "legalizing taboos."

"This situation is a very dangerous one that is linked to schemes by influential people to corrupt Muslim society by removing women from their natural position," he said in remarks recently broadcast on the station UFM.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported Friday al-Obeikan's dismissal without giving further details.

King Abdullah has irked the country's hardline clerics by easing some restrictions and allowing women to vote and run in 2015 municipal elections.

After his dismissal, al-Obeikan posted on his Twitter account a statement saying he hopes that the kingdom's rulers are kept away from "bad advisers."

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, implements a strict interpretation of the religion and prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling.

But those restrictions are enforced sporadically. This year the kingdom began to apply a 2006 law that banned men from working in lingerie and apparel stores after complaints by women about having to buy those items from men behind the counter. Hardliners had opposed more women in the workplace.

The separation of men and women is also relaxed in other sectors of the work force. Women work as engineers, doctors, nurses and a range of other posts.

The former adviser, 81, sparked an uproar in 2010 when he said that a woman could be alone or even appear without her veil in front of an unrelated adult male if he drinks her breast milk because it establishes a mother-son bond in Islamic tradition.

That reasoning is rejected by most Islamic scholars.