Saudi Arabia's top government-sanctioned board of senior Islamic clerics has endorsed a fatwa that calls for a ban on female vendors because it violates the kingdom's strict segregation of the sexes.
The powerful committee said in its ruling Sunday that the mixing of sexes is forbidden and women should not seek jobs where they could encounter men.
The decision comes after a conservative preacher was reprimanded in August for violating a government-mandated restriction on fatwas by calling for a boycott of supermarkets employing female cashiers.
Saudi King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on ultraconservative ideology as part of his bid to modernize the kingdom. But his efforts appear to be challenged by the influential religious scholars, who play a key role in the monarch's legitimacy.