RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – One of Saudi Arabia’s largest supermarket chains has reversed a decision to employ female cashiers, in a religious dispute that saw the king issue a reprimand Thursday to a conservative scholar.

Facing pressure from strict religious groups, the Panda group, owned mostly by Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal, said it would not continue to employ the 11 women.

Yousef al-Ahmed, a conservative scholar, used an appearance on a satellite television station recently to call for a boycott of the chain if it did not remove the women from their jobs. A group on Facebook joined his cause and started a petition against the cashiers.

While Panda backtracked and the women left the tills, King Abdullah issued a strong reprimand of al-Ahmed. The monarch also demanded he stop issuing religious decrees, or fatwas, without approval from the official Saudi Institute for Religious Scholars.

Earlier this month, King Abdullah issued a decree that allows only officially appointed scholars to issue public fatwas, in the kingdom’s first such large-scale reform of the rulings.


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