Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced in January that 30 women would join the kingdom’s Shura Council, a consultative body of 150 persons, and that women will, from now on, hold 20% of seats in the Shura.

When the King, who has a reputation as a reformer, first discussed his plan to name women to the council, a Saudi cleric said it would be “haram,” or forbidden under Islam. Nevertheless, the King went ahead and announced the 30 new female members of the Council, saying that he had consulted the Senior Ulema Council, the religious body whose approval is one of the pillars of the Saudi monarchy before taking the final decision.