Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prince Says Saudi Arabia Not Yet Ready to Allow Women to Drive

For those thousands of people who were expecting an announcement about women in Saudi Arabia being able to drive, disappointment.

Article in the April 26, 2016 Bloomberg.com about the issue and the Deputy Crown Prince's interview, by Dima Almashabi and Vivienne Nereim. A link to the story is here and the text is pasted in below.

Saudi Arabia isn’t ready to end the world’s only ban on women driving, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, arguing it’s not just a matter of ending strictures imposed by the kingdom’s austere form of Islam.
Allowing women to drive is “not a religious issue as much as it is an issue that relates to the community itself that either accepts it or refuses it,” said the 30-year-old prince, who has amassed unprecedented powers since his father, King Salman, ascended to the throne. “The community is not convinced about women driving” and sees negative consequences if it’s allowed, the prince said on Monday after outlining a plan to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil.
The prince had signaled his support for more freedom for women during an interview this month, saying “we believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to obtain.” But when asked about the driving ban by a reporter on Monday, he said reform couldn’t be rushed. “Changes could happen in the future and we always hope they will be positive changes,” he said.
Attempts at broad social liberalization could jeopardize the closer ties that the Al Saud family struck with Wahhabi clerics after armed fundamentalists in 1979 seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque and demanded an end to efforts to modernize the Saudi state. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh recently said allowing women to drive was “a dangerous matter that should not be permitted.”

Rapid Change

Yet the sort sort of industries Prince Mohammed wants to lure to Saudi Arabia to wean it off its oil dependency are unlikely to come to a country with major strictures on women. Saudi women also need a guardian’s consent to receive a passport, travel outside the country or marry. A 2015 gender gap index by the World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia as among the worst countries to be a woman, placing it at 134 out of 145 nations.
King Abdullah had expanded the rights of women in the world’s biggest oil exporter before his death in early 2015. Amid opposition from traditionalist clerics and their followers, the late king opened the first coeducational university, named the first female deputy minister and said women can vote and run in municipal polls. Many Saudi women want more rapid change.
“We were very disappointed,” said Muneerah Sulaiman, a 26-year-old lawyer in Riyadh, after the prince’s comments on Monday. “I don’t understand the argument of people who appose it on religious grounds,” she said. “How is it OK to have a strange man drive women around, which is against Islamic teachings, but not OK to drive yourself around? It doesn’t make any sense.”

1 comment:

  1. As I understand from the Prince's statement (read in arabnews), the government has no problems with women driving and it is for the society to decide whether it is necessary / acceptable to allow / lift ban on women driving.

    Now to allow society to decide, the government should at least make it legally possible for women to drive. This can be done by allowing them to apply for and receive a temporary permit to drive online (just registration and fee payment) and put a system in place wherein they can give a driving test and procure a permanent license.

    With temporary permit in hand, the women drive (if they want to test waters) and then only we will know the society's reaction.

    Without women driving on roads, how will society come to accept this? I know it will be difficult for the pioneers as the hardliners may create trouble just to discourage or to show that society does not accept this change but if we are a civil society, we will do our best to allow peaceful and co-operative experiment.