Saudi Arabia, home to the Salafi / Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, is possibly the most repressive regime on this earth. It is a nation ruled solely by a strict, medieval interpretation of Sharia law. It is a nation where "witches" are regularly executed and women who venture out of doors without a male family member as excort are subject to flogging. Indeed, it was only two years ago that the 19 year old "girl from Qatif" was taken by a group of men and brutally gang raped. At trial, she was found guilty with being out of her house without a male relative escort and sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes. The sentence was commuted by King Abdullah.
When King Abdullah ascended to the throne, many expected him to try liberalize his country. And today we hear that the person he has named to the position of head of the religious police has issued a fatwa so radical that it would be the equivalent of Obama tomorrow declaring a unilateral abrogation of the Fist Amendment. This from Memri:
A dispute has broken out in Saudi Arabia after a fatwa was issued by Ahmad Qasim Al-Ghamdi, director of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for Mecca, permitting mixing of the genders.
Al-Ghamdi also said that there are hadiths proving that a woman can shake a man's hand.
This is the largest movement I have seen yet towards liberalization in Saudi Arabia. If allowed to stand, the fatwah would work a sea change in Saudi culture and law.