Saturday, September 25, 2010

Princess Loulwa Speaks Out on Women Driving

Princess Loulwa Al Faisal spoke out recently about women driving in Saudi Arabia.

Loulwa is the sensible, smart, and hard-working daughter of Saudi Arabia's beloved King Faisal, who was tragically assassinated in 1975, and Queen Effat, a great pioneer in women's education. Her brothers and sisters are all, in their own way, working hard to bring Saudi Arabia forward. One brother is the Foreign Minister. Another used to be head of Royal Intelligence. Others head up a family foundation, are regional governors, or run charitable organizations. Loulwa helps run Effat University, an all-women liberal arts university whose curriculum is entirely in English. Princess Loulwa is one of my favorite people.

She recently took part in a symposium on women's education in the developing world at Bryn Mawr College and expressed her opinion quite clearly on the issue of women's driving. She also did this some years ago at the World Economic Forum, but this time she extended her remarks to be absolutely clear where she stands.

The story appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The quote begins below. You can read the whole story by clicking on the title of this post.

Princess Lolowah al-Faisal, vice chancellor of Saudi Arabia's first private women's university, described educational opportunities for women in her country in ways that defied Western stereotypes.

"We must promote cultural understanding," she said.

In Saudi Arabia, women's legal rights exceed the public's willingness to embrace them, Faisal said. "By law, salaries are equal," she said. "In every family, daughters have to finish high school."

And although women don't drive, that is by choice, she said. "I think women should drive. It is time now. Women are giving just as much to society as men. The king is not against it. The crown prince is not against it. There is no law against it. It just needs to get through society."

The princess, whose mother founded Effat University, holds an honorary doctor of humane letters from Mount Holyoke College. She embraced the idea of online universities. "I hope we arrive to a certain network where everybody shares this knowledge," she said.
But in developing nations, where so many people still have no electricity, she said, computers are not yet practical.

At Effat, she said, students receive a solid liberal arts education, but with cultural and religious accommodations. "There are things our society wouldn't accept, such as painting nudes," she said. "What we want of our graduates is to become good Muslims, to go out and live excellent lives. A society with uneducated women is dead."

Contrary to what many believe both in the United States and in her own country, the Quran does not place women in an inferior role, she said.

"Someone asked the prophet, 'Whom shall I be grateful for?' And he said, 'Your mother. Your mother. Your mother. Then your father.' People have forgotten this," she said. "This is what we're trying to bring back to our young people. The mother is the nation-builder. If she doesn't have the knowledge or the tools, then she won't help the nation."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Opposition to Women Driving: From the Pulpit to the Stage - Play About Saudi Women Driving Performed in Riyadh

The Arabic daily asharq alawsat  reported on a play that was performed in Riyadh during the recent Eid al-Fitr celebrations after the end of Ramadan, entitled "Profit Becomes a Loss."  The play presents the view opposing women driving, that if women begin to drive, too many difficulties and problems will result. The link to the story is in the title above, and also at right in the list of news stories about Saudi women driving.