Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Women driving and Shoura

Yet another opinion piece published in the October 24, 2013 Saudi Gazette about women driving. A link to the story is here, and the text is below. It was originally printed in the Arabic daily, Al Jazirah.

Samar Al-Miqren
Al Jazirah
THE predominant idea in the Shoura Council is that it still considers the satellite dish and mobile camera Haram (against Islam). The council could not surpass that stage even after women members have been appointed to it.

Some female members were able to stir the stagnant water such as Dr. Latifah Al-Shalan, Dr. Haya Al-Manee and Dr. Mona Al-Mushait who asked the council to discuss the issue of women driving. A council’s spokesman hastened to announce the disapproval of the council to adopt a recommendation allowing women to drive. This was the same method and style used before to discard a recommendation to the effect proposed few years ago by Dr. Mohammed Al-Zulfah. This is enough proof that the council has not changed.

We all know that the Shoura Council is no more than a consultative body. This does not mean that the council should refuse to adopt the recommendation proposed by the three women members just because it was not relevant to the Ministry of Transport. The council was at the time discussing the ministry’s annual report. I wished so much that the spokesman was more specific to inform us about the party concerned with allowing women to drive so that the study made by the three women members could be referred to it. The spokesman’s reply was very disappointing. The council should have accepted the study even if it was not to the liking of some of its members. By doing so, the council would have proved to us that it was interacting with our issues even if it did not have the power to approve or reject them.

The mode in which the council dumped the recommendation and study made by the three women members was enough evidence that it had no respect for its female members or society. This was an indication that the council does not accept other opinions. I wished that the council had accepted discussing the issue and providing us with convincing explanations to its refusal.

The council, at the end of the day, does not have the power to make decisions. It will only make recommendations to the supreme authority. The rejection of the study and the recommendation about women driving shows us that the council does not have a consultative pattern by which it can accept conflicting ideas. Again this is another proof that the council has not changed with time or with the presence of female members.

I am sorry to see that the discussion of the issue was appropriated before it started. If at all the issue was discussed, the discussion should set aside the issue of halal and haram and instead update traffic laws to suit women drivers and rehabilitate the streets and the basic infrastructure of roads. There should also be laws to protect women drivers against harassments on the road.

A suitable security and social ambience should be created for women to practice their driving rights. The wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to ride camels and there was no objection to that during their time.

Holding religious fanatics responsible for the ban on women driving is no longer acceptable and is not corresponding with the spirit and advancement of the contemporary age. The Shoura Council is far away from technological advancement and the prevailing atmosphere of freedom and openness. Banning women from driving just to please religious fanatics means that these fundamentalists are controlling many of the government’s decisions. This will give them a false feeling of power and will weaken government decisions.

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