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Sour Note? Saudi Woman Blocked by Court From Marrying Man Who Plays Music

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A Saudi woman recently lost a legal battle to marry the man of her choice because he is “religiously incompatible” with her, as he plays a musical instrument, a Saudi newspaper reported Tuesday.

According to the Okaz newspaper, the suitor asked for the unidentified woman's hand in marriage two years ago. The woman is a 38-year-old bank manager from the region of Qassim, which is north of the kingdom's capital of Riyadh. However, the woman's family objected to the suitor, who is a teacher, claiming that the man was not religiously compatible with them because he played the "oud," a type of lute popular across the Middle East. 

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Under Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system, a woman must have a male guardian — either a father, brother, husband or son — to make decisions on her behalf, including where she can travel or whom she can marry. In this case, the woman's family nixed the proposal apparently because of their belief that instrumental music is forbidden under Islamic law, a belief that exists among particularly conservative Muslims. Such Muslims believe that only vocal music is "halal" or permissible.

The woman wasn't ready to take no for an answer, however. She took her case to court, but a lower court sided with her family, agreeing that making music made him an unacceptable partner, Okaz reported Tuesday. An appeals court also ratified the lower court's decision. 

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The woman recently told Okaz that she plans to take her case to the "highest authorities," referring to the Saudi Royal Court.

Over the past year, Saudi Arabia, a US ally, has introduced reforms to liberalize the country. In addition to recently lifting the ban on women driving, Saudi Arabia passed a new law criminalizing sexual harassment in May. Despite Saudi Arabia's liberalization drive, however, the country still has multiple controversial laws in place, and lacks penal codes that specifically criminalize rape or outlaw marital or statutory rape.

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