Four stories came my way this week about the Saudi women driving issue. All these stories are linked below and at right. The voices in favor of lifting the ban are all Saudi - from a wide spectrum; a religious scholar, a Saudi woman artist, a Saudi woman activist and a senior journalist.
First, a feature article from the Arab News about a female artist and designer, Zaki Ben Abboud, who has been working with an Italian car company to design a six-wheeled automobile designed with women in mind, using 'traditional colors'. Unfortunately, due to turmoil in the financial markets, the project has been pushed back to 2012. She is also launching an art show in the west, entitled 'Revolution'. This show has been shown abroad but was not permitted in Saudi Arabia due to objections from the 'Hai'a' - Saudi Arabia's controversial vice squad. story on Zaki Ben Abboud
Second, an op-ed piece in the Saudi publication alsharq alawsat by its former editor in chief, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, who now serves as general manager for Al-Arabiyya TV, a major television network in the Middle East. He writes that so far, efforts to 'push' the government into permitting women to drive have not been successful. He says things will only change once overwhelming public opinion supports women driving. And since it's really difficult to tell what the public opinion is, the proponents of change should be focusing on changing public opinion. He cites the example of Rosa Parks - that after her defiant act riding in the front of the bus in the U.S. - it took years for things to change officially. op-ed piece from alsharq alawsat
Third, is a story from the Netherlands about Saudi women's rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaidar, who is teaching Saudi women how to drive in the rural areas where the driving ban is overlooked. story on Wajeha al-Huwaidar
Last, and perhaps most important, is an article summarizing an interview on al-Arabiyya tv, during which a Saudi scholar says there is no need for a fatwa to allow Saudi women to drive. The scholar, Shaikh Ahmad bin Baz, is the son of the former grand mufti of Saudi Arabia. While he isn't officially a 'cleric', the fact that someone from his family and with that kind of commitment to Islamic scholarship is basically saying the ban should be lifted, is quite significant. His most important point in my opinion is that people are taught to know right from wrong. And if they can't behave in a way that is consistent with that, then there is something in the education system that needs adjustment. Story from al-Arabiyya