Saudi cleric says women driver ban 'guards against evil'

By AFP
Published: November 28, 2013
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Sheikh Abdul Aziz said the issue of giving women the right to drive should not be "one of society's major concerns". PHOTO: FILE

Sheikh Abdul Aziz said the issue of giving women the right to drive should not be "one of society's major concerns". PHOTO: FILE

RIYADH: The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia said a ban on women driving in the conservative Gulf state protects society from “evil”, in remarks published in the press on Thursday.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, in a speech delivered Wednesday in the western city of Medina, said the issue of giving women the right to drive should not be “one of society’s major concerns”.

The kingdom’s most senior cleric called for “the matter to be considered from the perspective of protecting society from evil” which, according to him, included letting women drive.

His comments came as activists said they had been assured by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef that authorities were reassessing the controversial Saudi ban on women drivers.

“Rest assured that the issue is being discussed, and expect a good outcome,” the minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday by Aziza al-Yusef, who met him along with fellow activist Hala al-Dosari.

The monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, a regulation that has drawn condemnation from the international community.

Prince Mohammed stressed that the ban was “a matter to be decided by the legislative authority”, Yusef told AFP.

Saudi Arabia has an all-appointed consultative Shura Council, with no elected parliament. The council makes recommendations to the government, but the king remains the absolute legislator.

“We expect a royal decree that gives us this right,” Yusef said.

At least 16 women were stopped by police during a driving protest day last month, and were fined and forced along with their male guardians to promise to obey the kingdom’s laws.

In addition to the driving ban, Saudi women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe and need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Parvez
    Nov 28, 2013 - 10:55PM

    ……but it is said that evil lies in the eyes of the beholder.

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  • Nov 28, 2013 - 11:03PM

    Islam is a balanced religion. It has room for everyone. Saudi Arabia doesn’t represent Shariah accurately.
    Women should be allowed to drive because often men are not available. E. g. old father, husband away for work, son too young etc. It is a simple but strong reason.
    Secondly, the idea of veil is treated with disdain and is portrayed as a symbol of oppression and control by the media. It is definitely not that. Veils for women is nothing new, it is a symbol of respect and royalty, from pharaohs to ancient Rome. Even now the wedding attire for Christian brides has a net veil and cover.

    It is important for us to understand the roots of problems as follows:
    1. The problem lies partially in men who try to force women to veil, upon which it seems as oppression. The correct method is always gentle persuasion.
    2. Some women, on the other hand do not respect their sanctity, and perceive the show of skin and structure as an act of independence and power. It is not that, they are symbols of dignity and not eye-candy for passers by. They must be highly revered in the Islamic society.

    Instead of being an icon for societal development and unwavering rights to females, KSA comes across as an ancient civilization. It saddens me to see how Islam is being massively portrayed as a religion of oppression and aggression.Recommend

  • Faraz
    Nov 28, 2013 - 11:47PM

    Lol! Women can’t drive but muslims can be slaughtered in Syria by the Saudis!!! Yay.. way to go.. celebrate hypocracy! Recommend

  • Zif
    Nov 29, 2013 - 1:35AM

    No cure has been discovered for myopic views uptill now. Not even by Hakeem Luqman!

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  • rasgullah
    Nov 29, 2013 - 6:46AM

    @The Failed Rebel:
    You are a funny dude that somehow makes it sound as if People thousands of year ago were smarter? Anything that doesn’t change with time becomes extinct. Remember dinosaurs?

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  • azmat khan
    Nov 29, 2013 - 7:34AM

    Is Saudi Arabia the only contractor of women’s chastity in the world? It has made itself very notorious and controversial in the world.

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  • Nobody
    Nov 29, 2013 - 6:47PM

    Rubbish. If this old kook wants to protect society from so called evil he ought to ban men from leaving their house since they are the ones committing a vast majority of violent crimes and sexual deviances. This fool has nothing to contribute to the world besides his sexist outdated version of Islam. Do us all a favor and go hide in a hole somewhere.

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