Transportation / What's Going on in the Gulf?

King Abdullah: “Saudi Women would be permitted to Drive Someday.”

Women Driving is Not in Conflict With Religion: Scholars

A well-regarded Saudi religious scholar said that there is nothing in Islamic law that bans women from driving and that the fatwas issued in this regard are based on individual judgments.

“In principle women driving is permitted in Islam,” said Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obaikan, a member of the Kingdom’s Council of Senior Islamic Scholars.

The ban, he said, has to do with the social complications rather than the act itself. As an example, the sheikh referred to a fatwa from former Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin-Baz that said it is permitted for women in rural areas to drive cars, but that they should be forbidden from driving in the cities where, as Al-Obaikan said, “youths (even) harass women accompanied by parents and drivers.

He said if certain issues are resolved, such as the problem of men’s behavior and traffic safety, then he sees no religiously motivated conflict with women driving.

Sheikh Mehsin Al-Awaji, another prominent religious scholar in the Kingdom, agreed. “No religious scholar is going to tell you differently,” he said. “But (the issue of) women driving comes as a ‘package’ and we need to fix the ‘package’ before making the decision (to allow women to drive).”

Expanding on the idea that allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia comes with a “package” of issues, Al-Awaji said there needs to be Saudi women working as police officers, mechanics and other positions. The sheikh diminished the significance of women driving, saying that myriad social reforms have higher priority, even in the realm of empowering women or encouraging public participation in important social challenges.

The Saudi government has pointed out that there is no law that states women cannot drive. “The Interior Ministry’s stand is clear on this,” said ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.

In a previous statement, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah said that Saudi women would be permitted to drive someday.

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