Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Consider the Mahram Factor

Another opinion piece translated into the English Language daily Saudi Gazette of October 24, 2013. A link to the story is here, and the text is below.

Last updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 12:29 AM

Dr. Muhammad Saud Al-Masood

ALLOWING women to drive will protect their modesty and avoid them having to be in the same car with a driver who is not related to them. Those who support this viewpoint regard driving as a means to protect women’s modesty.

Many in Saudi society no longer can put up with seeing non-mahram (male guardian) drivers driving their wives and daughters around and listening to their private conversations. I’m talking about those citizens who want to protect their wives and daughters’ modesty and privacy.

There is something I don’t understand about the legal system here. Many times, courts sentenced citizens, men and women, to prison and lashes for being caught together in a car in complete khulwa (when someone is caught with a member of the opposite sex who is not an immediate family member).

Judges based their verdicts on the fact that if a man and a woman were caught alone in the car, then this was undoubtedly khulwa. If khulwa is punishable by law, why are women forced to ride in the same car with a driver?

This is a clear contradiction. A woman has no option but to pay for recruitment fees, accommodation, food, medical treatment and residence permit for her driver who drives her around.

Isn’t this khulwa? Or is khulwa restricted to Saudis only? In other words, is khulwa only committed when both persons involved in it are citizens? So if one person is Saudi and the other not, we can’t call it khulwa?

I don’t understand those people who believe that women should be banned from driving and should get drivers. In Shariah, women are allowed to work and earn their living in legitimate ways.

Some women are in dire need of work because they don’t have support; therefore, they need to be breadwinners for their own families.

Statistics on social insurance showed that 70 percent of female workers in the private sector earn SR3,000 a month. Over half of their salaries goes into paying salaries for their drivers.

Some dishonest drivers produce false gasoline bills in order to get more money from their female employers, while some drivers don’t take good care of their cars and employers find themselves in a situation where they have to pay for repairs. Thus, women have to work and work in order to pay half their salaries to their drivers. It seems that those poor women have to provide food and housing for their drivers while at the same time cover their own bills and other expenses. Women should be allowed to drive just like men in order to save their money.

If they are deprived of this right, they should be compensated. Their compensation lies in exempting them from paying visa fees, residence permit fees, etc.

Driving is a civil right for women. We heard many senior officials and scholars saying there is no thing in Shariah that bans women from driving. All we need now is to garner social support and for authorities to allow women to drive.

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