Friday, September 22, 2017

Saudi cleric suspended over 'quarter-brain' women drivers quip

Reuters reported on September 22, 2017 that the cleric who claimed women shouldn't be able to drive since they only have a 'quarter brain' has been suspended by Saudi authorities. We posted the news about his initial lecture that was videotaped and put out on  social media. A link to the latest story is here, and the story is pasted in below.

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Saudi cleric who said women should not drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man’s when they go shopping has been banned from preaching, state television said.
Saad al-Hijri was suspended from all religious activity after advising against allowing women to drive in a speech that contained comments “diminishing human value”, the broadcaster quoted a spokesman for the governor of Asir province as saying.
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce.
Women in the kingdom are also bound by law to wear long robes and a headscarf and require the consent of a male guardian for most legal actions.
In a video identifying him as the head of the religious edicts department in the southern province, Hijri asked what the traffic department would do it if it discovered a man with only half a brain.
“Would it give him a license or not? It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?” he said.
“If she goes to the market she loses another half. What is left? A quarter...We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter.”
The comments sparked anger on social media, which is hugely popular in the kingdom. Twitter users shared the video, many criticising it and making jokes about his remarks, under the Arabic hashtag “Al-Hijri_women_quarter_brain”
Some users posted pictures of Saudi female scientists and academics in response and questioned Hijri’s own intellectual capacities.
His suspension, ordered by the provincial governor, was aimed at preventing the spread of views that spark controversy and do not serve the national interest, the provincial spokesman said, according to Ekhbariya TV’s official Twitter account.
Any others who used religious platforms to preach such views would also be banned.
The government’s modernizing reforms, backed by Saudi Arabia’s business class, have sparked tensions with influential clerics upon whose support the ruling family relies. Some clerics have millions of followers on social media.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Ahmed Tolba; editing by John Stonestreet

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Women can't drive because they 'have a quarter of a brain', Saudi sheikh says

Mariam Nabout writes on Stepfeed about a video of a Saudi cleric speaking about why women shouldn't be allowed to drive. Published on September 21, 2017. A link to the story is here  and the text is pasted below.

"Women don't deserve to drive because they only have a quarter of a brain"

According to the head of religious fatwas (edicts) in Saudi Arabia's Assir governorate, a woman shouldn't be allowed to drive because "she has a quarter of a brain."
You heard that right.
In a now-viral video that started making the rounds online late on Wednesday, Sheikh Saad Al Hajari is heard making the statement to a group of people during what appears to be a sermon.
"A woman isn't equal to a man when it comes to brain power and this is how she was created," Hajari said.
He then explained that because women have "half a brain," Saudi Arabia's Road and Traffic safety authority shouldn't allow them to drive.
"If a man had half a brain, would they issue him a driving license? They wouldn't."
Hajari's insults didn't stop here, he went on to explain that when women go shopping, they lose another half of their existing "half brain" and end up with only a quarter.
"Women don't deserve to drive because they only have a quarter of a brain," he reiterated.
Hajari's comments come at a time when the debate about women's right to drive continues to intensify.
Under the country's current law, there is no official prohibition on women driving, however, officials have yet to issue driving licenses to women. 

Outrage on social media

As soon as a video of Hajari's talk started to circulate online, it sparked outrage on Saudi Twitter.
Many wondered how a person who calls himself a religious cleric could make such statements, while others called on authorities to take immediate action against him. 

People were angered by the statements

"He's brainless"  

A few couldn't even watch the entire video

"I congratulate those who watched the video till the end for being able to handle it."  

"Don't they feel shame, talking about their own mothers like this!"

Many raised this issue

"The real problem is that a few of these clerics explain and interpret religion as they please and use our religion as an excuse to do the worst things." 

"A quarter of a brain contributes to the continuity of humanity, and a full brain contributes to its regression"

A few women shared right-on-point responses

"She lacks a brain, she lacks spirituality, she lacks an arm, leg, or even a head... all your bullshit won't work... women are going to drive sooner or later."  

Many called on the authorities to take action against Hajari

"This person is offending and denigrating Saudi women, authorities must take action against him and fire him from his position."  

Watch Hajari's full statement here: it's in Arabic only.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New proposal calls for granting licences to men and women alike

This story appeared in the Gulf News dated September 13, 2017. A link to the story is here, and the story is pasted in below.

Supporters are hoping the recommendation will this time be endorsed by the 150-member Shura council
Gulf News

Manama: A recommendation to allow Saudi women to drive will be submitted to the Shura Council within one month, a member of the Saudi advisory body has said.
“A high number of Shura members are interested in the issue, and 20 members have expressed their open support to it,” the member who was not named said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Monday.
Supporters are hoping the recommendation will this time be endorsed by the 150-member council.
In 2013, members Haya Al Maniie, Lateefa Al Shaalan and Muna Al Mushait submitted a motion to the Shura calling for allowing Saudi women to drive, within a religious framework.
However, the motion was turned down by the Council.
“The new proposal calls for amending Article 36 of the Traffic Law on the conditions to acquire a driving licence. Under the new proposal, a new paragraph will be introduced, stipulating that “the driving licence is a right for men and women alike when conditions are met, the Shura member said.
“The proposal was accompanied by a note explaining it, based on a comprehensive study showing the importance of establishing this requirement according to a scientific vision that took into consideration the social, economic, cultural, legal, security and other dimensions. The legal basis for the proposal is consistent with the system of state governance.”
There is legal text banning women from driving in Saudi Arabia and the issue is related mainly to social traditions.
The de facto ban has been at times challenged by women who drove on roads and highways, alone or with relatives, but they were accused of “stirring up public opinion” and made to sign commitments not to drive again. The women were held accountable for not holding valid driving licences.
The debate over allowing women to drive has been omnipresent on social media in Saudi Arabia with both camps using religious, social, cultural and economic arguments.
The presence of thousands of males to drive mainly Saudi women and girls has been regularly used by supporters of allowing women to drive to highlight negative social and economic problems.
The Saudi Shura Council comprises 30 women.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Saudi Woman Driving While Dressed Like A Man Questioned

The British Daily Mail reported on 8/24/17 the following, starting with the headline as follows:
A link to the story is here,  and text is below.

Saudi woman who dressed up like a man in traditional robes then filmed herself behind the wheel is grilled by police after posting protest video online

  • The unidentified woman uploaded the video to social media where it went viral
  • She donned male robes and a man's headdress before getting into a white SUV 
  • After complaints from viewers police tracked down the woman's location

A woman has been grilled by police in Saudi Arabia after getting behind the wheel of a car dressed as a man. The unidentified driver donned robes and a traditional headdress, usually worn by men, before climbing into a white SUV.  The footage was later posted on social media where it went viral receiving more than 20,000 views. There is a social taboo against woman driving in Saudi Arabia and many viewers called for the authorities to take action against those responsible for the footage.
Security services probed the clip and worked out it was shot at a 'recreational facility' in the town of Al Khafji, in the north-east of the country. Police questioned both the owner of the car and the man who runs the site over alleged anti-social behaviour. They have also questioned two women identified as Arabs although their nationalities have not been given. The case will focus on the nature of the suspects' relationship as Saudi Arabia does not allow the free mixing of unrelated men and women.
There is no law banning women from driving in Saudi Arabia but many believe it goes against the social traditions of the Middle Eastern country. Women who challenge the taboo have repeatedly been accused of 'stirring up public opinion'. The topic of whether women should be allowed to drive leads to regular rows on social media with both sides using social, religious and economic arguments to support their points.
To view the video, go to the Daily Mail article here and scroll down: Video link is in this article

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review of DARING TO DRIVE by Saudi Blogger Iman al-Nafjan

Saudi blogger Eman Fahad al-Nafjan reviewed Manal al-Sharif's book DARING TO DRIVE, which was released today.  Here is the link to her post:  Saudi Woman's Weblog. 
Lovely review.

Manal al-Sharif's Memoir Rated #1 Summer Read by O Magazine

Congratulations to Saudi author and women's rights activist, Manal al-Sharif! Her book DARING TO DRIVE comes out this week. She is on a book and speaking tour. And...just now, Manal posted on her facebook page that O Magazine has  rated her book the #1 Summer Read!  I couldn't find it on-line yet but am posting in a photo she took from the magazine. Bravo! We need to read more first-hand accounts of life from Saudi women (and men too). 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Manal al-Sharif interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air

Saudi women's driving activist Manal al-Sharif is in the U.S. for the launch of her new book, DARING TO DRIVE. She is making appearances and sat down with Terry Gross of Fresh Air. You can link to a podcast of the interview on the right side of the site linked here. 

Below is an article about the interview. The link above also will take you to a book excerpt.
Manal al-Sharif's path to activism began simply enough: In 2011, the Saudi woman filmed herself driving a car, then uploaded the video to YouTube. Ordinarily such a video might not get much notice, but because it's not socially acceptable for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, where there is a de facto ban, Sharif's video went viral.

Sharif describes driving as an act of civil disobedience: "For me, driving — or the right to drive — is not only about moving from A to B; it's a way to emancipate women," she says. "It gives them so much liberty. It makes them independent."

Initially arrested for driving, Sharif was released when her story elicited outrage from around the world. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, with her second husband and son.

Though she is no longer in Saudi Arabia, Sharif remains outspoken about women's rights: "When I see something wrong, I speak up," she says of her advocacy on behalf of Saudi women. "It should be the norm, not the exception." Her new memoir is Daring to Drive.

Interview Highlights

On the guardianship system for women in Saudi Arabia
We have the guardianship system and that is the one that imposes a lot of restrictions on me, as a woman. ... A woman cannot choose her guardian. So when you're born, your father is your guardian. When you get married, it moves to your husband. If you get divorced, it either moves back to your father if he's alive; if he's not alive, it could move back to your brother.
If you don't have a brother, it could move back to your adult son, as young as 18 years old. He could be your own guardian issuing you permissions ... for important things like going to school, getting a job, leaving the country, going to the court, even going to the police and complaining. They always ask for a man's consent and permission.

On why she decided to advocate for Saudi women's right to drive
I think it chose me. I didn't choose it. As a single mom, I was divorced with a son and I had a car and I had a driver's license, but I couldn't drive my car. I was paying the installments for this car for five years. That was very frustrating. I almost got kidnapped once because I couldn't find a car to take me back home.
It's a daily struggle to find a car to do anything in your life in a country where there's no public transportation and our cities are not pedestrian-friendly. It was a continuous struggle, and it was very empowering that I know how to drive. I have a car and I have a driver's license. When I knew that there is no law, I was thinking, "Well, if there's no law, so why are not driving?" It was accumulating, it didn't just happen overnight.

On Saudi women's reliance on foreign drivers

[Private drivers] get paid around $500 a month. No Saudi would accept this salary, and no Saudi will be 24/7 available ... to drive you around. ... [Drivers] work long hours with you, because they drop the kids at school, they drop you at work, when you need to go for grocery shopping, all these things — you will not find Saudis accepting these jobs.
The private sector itself in Saudi Arabia, 90 percent of the people working there are non-Saudis, so also the contradictions here make me mad, because you don't allow me to mix with Saudis or men in general all my life, but then you enforce a perfect stranger to be living in my house, to be driving my own car and have my own phone number. ...
Most of them don't even know how to drive! My first driver, I had to teach him how to drive. He didn't even know the signs. ... He didn't know the city. He didn't speak Arabic.

On how her protest helped inspire others to drive

I know a girl, she's 14 years old. She's so young, but in Saudi Arabia, you can drive as a boy as young as 14 years old. She dressed like a boy and I met her mom and I met her other sister, and they said [the police] stopped her so many times and they found out she's a girl, and she would plead with the police officer and explain to him that she doesn't have anyone. But she continued driving.
She always posted videos of herself driving, and that was amazing. She said, "We never thought of buying a car, because we were three girls in the house," — they don't have a man — "until we saw you driving."
Her mom ... kept saying, "Don't stop." Her daughter said, "They stole Mom's life. We'll not allow them to steal my life."

On the hard-line views she encountered as a student

In the '80s in Saudi Arabia, you were radicalized. We were radicalized in the '80s and the '90s. There was one source of information, the books were censored and we had all these wars going on around in the Islamic world. ... I was brought up in this era or in this time. ... We've been through this. ... Destroying our photos, stopping everyone from listening to music, questioning the beliefs of the others, the hate against the infidels, we were brought up this way. ...

I always questioned them, even when I was practicing to be a "good Muslim" and I was trying to please God and stay away from hellfire and go to heaven, I was still questioning these things. I wasn't really happy. The more I was trying to follow the rules we had been taught, the more miserable I became.

On undergoing female genital mutilation as a girl

The one, really, who circumcised us was a barber. He was my father's friend. My mom herself was circumcised and she told us the story that she ran away when they cut one labia and the other one they couldn't cut, and she was bleeding and she hid in the neighbor's house.

It was shocking to me that [my] mom, she put us through the same thing. But the pressure from the society is huge ... that a mother and a father can put their own daughters through so much pain just to abide by the society rules. This is how dangerous it is, that your own children, you put them through so much pain because you need to be obedient. ...

I think the worst was not the pain, the worst is losing trust in the people you love. ... It's very difficult even to talk about today. ... They didn't explain to us what was going to happen. ... These things bother me so much, that we put women through this pain.