Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Case Against Women Driving in KSA


For anyone who has ever lived in or visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you can attest to the fact that the drivers here - all men, of course - are more often than not, crazy, reckless, and not at all courteous, with few exceptions. Many drivers here seem to think that they are more important and in more of a hurry than everyone else. Traffic is always a nightmare. I can't help but think that if women were allowed to drive here, driving conditions would drastically improve and naturally become more civilized and the streets would become safer for everyone.


The arguments for why women should not and are not allowed to drive here in Saudi Arabia are weak, at best. I've talked at length with my husband about this subject and his basic vague reason is that women aren't allowed to drive here "for their own protection." This can have many different connotations, but I really believe that the main thinking behind this type of logic is expressed in a video of a Saudi cleric filmed in 2005, called "Why Women Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Drive (in Saudi Arabia)." You can view it for yourself by clicking HERE, or just read the complete translation below for this holy man of Islam's own words.

From the Memri TV Project – Saudi Cleric Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan: Al-Majd TV - KSA/UAE - June 17, 2005.
“In conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, this blessed kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, Allah be praised, is the most conservative in the Muslim world, in which a woman maintains her honor, decency, and modesty, and she does not reveal anything – not her hands, her face, or anything – how can she drive a car? Those who call to allow women to drive – according to what has been written – can be divided into two groups. The first group includes Westernized people, who want to westernize the society, to tell the truth. They want to destroy society, corrupt it, and drag it down into the depths of decay and permissiveness, like in Western societies. These people have been blinded by what they saw there when they studied or visited there, and they want our society to be like other societies. They want it to be devoid of all values, morals, and modesty. They want women to go out on the streets all made up, like a harlot, with her face uncovered, like they see in the West. They think that the shortest and best way to reach this goal is to allow women to drive, because if a woman drives, she will reveal her face, drive without a male chaperone, will have an easy opportunity to meet all kinds of young men and women, and she will get all made up, will mix with men, and so on. I don’t think that any woman throughout human history has been as oppressed as the Western woman today – and they still claim they have given her freedom. They took her out of the home in order to exploit her - to exploit her honor and dignity. Furthermore, in many countries, her salary is lower than the man’s, but she works more than him. She does not get what she wants unless she sacrifices her honor, to her bosses or her co-workers. How strange! Even though they have permissiveness there, and any man can satisfy his desires outside of marriage, he’s not satisfied with ten or twenty. Any girl he sees, who has certain features, he wants. If she consents, fine. If not, he rapes her. “


This is the kind of twisted reasoning that the people here are fed by their highly respected religious leaders. This guy is actually insinuating that every Western man, when confronted with a woman he finds desirable, will either have sex with her willingly or unwillingly. Puhh-leeeazzze! And he makes it sound like there are no people in the West with morals or modesty or honor, that every single person in the West is corrupt, that all women are exploited and have to sleep around to get anywhere in the workplace. Not only are his remarks extremely exaggerated and inaccurate, but they are also highly offensive and insulting.


I was truly appalled when I viewed this video, because it made me realize that the big problem is that people here listen to and believe inaccuracies like this. I know that Muslims don't like or appreciate other people making ridiculous generalizations about them like - all Muslims are terrorists, that they all beat their wives, and that the women are oppressed. But then they should also understand that making their own ridiculous generalizations about Westerners like - all Western men are rapists, all Western women are harlots, all Westerners have no morals - are just as wrong and hurtful. These types of broad, derrogatory, and highly exaggerated portrayals of one another must stop if there is ever to be any real peace and understanding between the Middle East and the West.

76 comments:

  1. Phew!!! Wow!!! the sheer ignorance on his part is mind blowing! But it's just depressing imagining regular people hanging on to his every word. I remember one Saudi girl I spoke to briefly (she was engaged to a friend of mine from college) insisting that she was lucky to be married to him, a Saudi, b/c (and I quote exactly) "unlike American men who love to have their wives in bikinis and show her off and let his friends have sex with her".............WOW!!! The friend broke off the engagement later on. Not for her obvious naivety (although that would have been my reason!!!). It's disheartening really. A young woman, actually going to college, speaks some basic English....and believing that?!! When I was taking Arabic classes in Oman, one of my Omani teachers, a guy, said that when he was a teen and was really into American pop culture, etc. he believed for a long time that western women were "easy". That you could easily go up to her and if you ask her for sex, she would automatically say yes. This was before he had even met any westerners. Then he said he "learned better" when he got older and actually met and befriended westerners.

    And other sorry @$$ excuses I've heard for why women can't drive in KSA "it's too dangerous", "they would get raped a lot" "they don't want to drive"....and the list goes on. Hearing all this while in next door Oman (go visit if you can, it's BEAUTIFUL!!!) Omani girls I knew were driving trucks through the mountains to and from their villages.

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  2. I'd like to ask him if his mother or grandmother were ever allowed to drive a camel, or a horse, back in the day. Surely there was a time when the woman of the family had to "take the reins" so to speak. ;)

    My boyfriend lives in Saudi for work right now and we joke how it would probably take me an hour after arrival to be jailed! You can take many things from me and I would still be happy, but dude...don't take my wheels! :)

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  3. Arabs make just as many generalizations about us as we do about them! I don't know if it has anything to do with how they are raised, but some of the Arab men I talk to seem to have a lot of insecurities and one guy even said that he loved women in the middle east because they do everything for the man and American women want to many freedoms. He doesn't want his wife to look at other men but openly admits that he will cheat on his wife! He wants the focus to be on him - this is what he said! Got to admire his honesty I guess! The conversation gets deeper but I won't go into to! Needless to say I would never tell my friends about this guy! I'll stick with my American husband thank you!

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  4. From slapping your wife to not allowing women to drive if they want to. It's really hard for me to understand a religion that allows that. I agree with you about a lot of organized religions created by men.

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  5. Sorry, but I had to LOL... if my husband had read the comment about how more civilized and safer the streets would have been... well lets just say I'd be hearing his rant on that for weeks... months even. I can't think of one car ride (except maybe this last one because we were pretty upset) that I haven't heard a comment about women drivers... and yet he keeps pushing me to drive (I don't).

    In response to Kay... Islam doesn't teach that women can't drive... I've seen plenty of Muslim women do it here in the states... and in Tanzania too for that matter. There's a difference between religion and culture.

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  6. Ah, MEMRI...it's always good for something inflamatory.

    @Kay: Technically the religion doesn't say anything about cars. This is a law (or...actually, not even a law) of Saudi society. Even the Quran's reference to hitting one's wife suggests something to the effect of "...with nothing larger than one's thumb". Alas, doctrine is doctrine and people are the ones who realise how a faith is conventionally practiced. Tragic, isn't it? Shouldn't men turn in their Land Cruisers? The Prohphet Muhammed never drove one of those.

    Anyway, I can't speak for Saudi, but I can draw on my knowledge of the UAE when it comes to the role of women. Long before there was oil there was an incredibly hard life. Men who did fishing and pearl diving for their livelihood disappeared for months on end. Who ran the house? Who made the clothes? Who went off to market to sell things in order to sustain the family? Who managed the kids? Why, the women, of course. The women of yesteryear who are now identified as Emirati women were empowered contributors to the family's existence. Today, however, women here are in need of "protection" (very popular word). Husbands don't want them working with other men. It's as though they've reverted in some ways and grown in others. I wonder how Saudi women of 60 years ago got around? Were they not doing the same? Running the house? Helping their husbands bring in money by selling fish at the market? Tending the goats? Were they not getting on with life?

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  7. hi .. I come from indonesia
    if in indonesia, love-love like a woman or man driving ...

    Riau Tourism and Travel

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  8. Wow.

    Women being allowed to drive = rape, Western decadence, etc.

    Worst. Extrapolation. Ever.

    I think I've said before that I wouldn't want to export Western culture as-is to the KSA, but driving? Owning businesses? Obtaining an education? What's wrong with allowing women to do these things without having to obtain permission, or perhaps having the legal right to do so? Forgive my Western ignorance, but I will never understand.

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  9. Really bad slapping a women & not allowing to drive. It must be really a tough life in Saudi. It's seems like a man made religion & rules.

    http://manojsrikanth.blogspot.com/

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  10. Not being able to drive is not a rule of Islam. There is one Muslim country in the world that I know of where women can't drive, and that is Saudi. In the other Gulf countries, women drive. (Although if you go to southern Oman, for example, you don't see many of the local women driving, even though it's perfectly legal. Same in Qatar.)

    I notice that you and American Bedu are fond of posting video clips from MEMRI, and I wonder if you know what MEMRI is. It's a well-funded Israeli propaganda machine. (That's not the ravings of a paranoid anti-semite; look it up. To begin with, their founder and President is Yigal Carmon, formerly a Colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence Branch. Juan Cole, for example, has an ongoing dispute with them.)

    They pick the most absurd, outrageous things thay can find across the entire Middle East, and they publicize them so that people who don't know any better assume that this is the norm. (And they don't always translate the Arabic accurately, either.)

    If someone did the same for American Christians, Hindu extremists, Orthodox Jews, etc., they could come up with some ridiculous stuff. But would it be an accurate portrayal of those groups?

    Sine Saudi does ban women drivers, and the religious hierarchy (as well as much of the public) agrees, you should be able to find plenty of material without resorting to MEMRI.

    Also, one of the reasons foreigners (and not only Arabs or Muslims) think that Americans are easy is that it's what they see on the movies and TV shows that are sent around the world. (At one point, Baywatch was supposedly the most watched TV show on the planet.) Then there are real statistics about sexual active teens, the percentage of children born out of wedlock (40%), etc.

    Another Anonymous

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  11. Wow, you just talk about how people can make the wrong assumptions if watching things from MEMRI (Which I do agree that it has a problem with selective bias), but then turn around and say that it's expected that foreigners will assume things about Americans, like being promiscuous, by watching so much of its tv shows and movies. That's slightly amusing.

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  12. Hey Susie, aren't you on your way to having your blog blacklisted? I hope not.

    Anyway, it is unfortunate that many people listen to these guys, it is also unfortunate that many people believe that Mein Kampf is evidence of the superiority of the Aryan race... it is also unfortunate that Jews think that they are different from the Palestinians even though scientifically they are genetically the same http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/25/medicalscience.genetics

    everyone seems to want to find a way to support evidence of their superiority... and that is where one of the problems of humans are... as the aliens have told me... but they never showed me how to spell correctly

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  13. Can you explain the photo? It looks like a woman buying a car, which is not unusual in Saudi, right? Then she has a driver to drive her around, run errands for her, wash the car, put gas in it, etc.

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  14. Eastern Reflections, there's a big difference. MEMRI searches to find the quotes that will put Arabs/Muslims in a bad light, and ignores anything that would not. There are many cases where an opinion page publishes a range of opinions, and all but one are moderate, but MEMRI ignores all but that one. There is a definite pro-Zionist, pro-Israeli agenda.

    The Hollywood movies and TV shows are programs are sent purposely to the rest of the world, representing American culture and often drowning out other cultures, and the fact is that many people around the world get their image of America from them. I'm dating myself here, but I had African friends who never missed an episode of Dallas or Dynasty, and believed that the average American family lived like the Ewings.

    Another Anonymous

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  15. I think Saudi men must think very little of their women if they assume that only completely controlling their every movement is the ONLY thing that keeps them from acting slutty and begging for sex from every man they encounter.

    Then again...many Saudi men I know act slutty and beg sex from every woman they encounter...so they know from whence they speak...sigh.

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  16. Anothery Anonymous- Thanks for sharing that info.. I have never even heard of MEMRI! Thanks for shedding some light.

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  17. I was always wondering about the following nonsense

    a) women in Saudi aren't allowed to drive because they could meet men not related

    b) since women can't dirve they hire UNRELATED male driver

    can someone explain why it's ok for women share a car with an unrelated man (driver) but can't drive because they could interact with an unrelated man?

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  18. I agree with the comments about the dangers of using MEMRI as a reference. They are only useful for finding out what an extremist is saying, and what their own extremist viewpoint is. It was co-founded by former IDF intelligence officers and academic advisors to the Israeli military. It is (rightfully) accused of bias, selectivity, and translation errors.

    I have never seen a MEMRI video on American Bedu's blog--perhaps it is being confused with another blog that recently posted MEMRI videos.

    That said, this cleric's discourse is an extreme (and therefore clear though exaggerated) example of the general thinking that women should not drive for religious and moral reasons, and that to do so is the road to social ruin. The same was said about car driving in general when they were first introduced in the US.

    I agree completely, Susie, that extremist, and uninformed but confidently wrong opinions prevent mutual understanding of the Middle East and the West. I would add that they are more similar (in part because of the Abrahamic religions) than they like to believe.

    Thanks for another stimulating post.

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  19. Hi EasternRef - There are so many unfair misconceptions and exaggerations on both sides of this East vs West issue. I really wish making broad generalizations and accusations would stop. Thanks for commenting!

    Hi Bellafiamma - From what I have read, women here used to enjoy much more freedom of movement, but since the 1970s or so, they've turned the clock back. Sad.

    Hi SanAntCicily - Yes, E & W are both guilty of making these generalizations and also of being hypocritical. Just wish we could all come to terms with it all and stop being in denial on both sides. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Kay - The not driving issue is not from the religion, but the reasons they try to give to justify it are in fact related to religion. I definitely think religions need input from women!

    Hi MamaK - I think on the whole women are safer drivers and take fewer chances. Thanks for your input.

    Hi AD/UAE DP - Thanks for the info on UAE's history. I have heard the word "protection" so many times here - it gets old.

    Hi Riau-Tourism - Thanks!

    Hi Mel - I know - the implications they make just from a woman driving seem so far fetched. Women drive in other ME countries - are they all harlots and getting raped every day? I think not!

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  20. Clarifying here... I agree that women can be safer drivers. There's a reason our insurance rates are lower. Unfortunately I can't prove it to my husband because 99% of the crap we see on the road is done by a woman... usually talking on the phone and doing something else she shouldn't at the same time. It's rather aggravating. I do my best to point out when its a man though lol.

    Me personally not driving is just because I hate driving... with a passion. I'll do it if I have too, but thankfully don't have to here. I learned in small towns and know I shouldn't here. Eventually I will lose that battle but for now I'm holding out as long as possible.

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  21. Hi Mano - Yes, it is definitely a man-made and male dominated world here...

    Hi Anon - This is actually the 1st video from MEMRI that I have ever posted. I don't post many video clips at all. Is the video bogus? Was it an actor playing the role of a cleric? No matter who funded the clip, the sad fact is that I have heard versions of this cleric's explanation over and over again. So it IS Saudi propaganda that is heard loud and clear over here - and believed and repeated. You cannot deny that.

    Hi EasternRef- Couldn't have said it better myself!

    Hi Precognitive - The things that I have written about are topics that are out there being discussed, so I would hope that I wouldn't be singled out - and I do try my best to be objective and show both sides.
    Great comment - thanks.

    Hi Anon - I had my choice of this one or showing Saudi women getting into the back seat of a car - I was trying to be more optimistic and empowering for women.

    Hi AnotherAnon - Making assumptions about an entire culture or country based on what one sees in the movies, on TV, or in video clips is very naive. People have been guilty of this type of behavior forever. Propagating the beliefs further as fact is harmful to everyone.

    Hi CoolRed - I love your first sentence - In fact, I love your entire comment!

    Hi CountryGirl - A very good question that I have never gotten an adequate answer to - thanks!

    Hi Chiara - The problem is that I have heard what the guy in the video says being repeated by many men here - so they are obviously listening to this crap and believe it. Thanks, Chiara.

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  22. Susie, were not for the fact that someone is actually taking this clown seriously, it would be laughable. The whole "protection" argument is highly convinient. It is also what is turning the clock back even further. Their next jump, like you mentioned in a previous post, is to just keep women home, so as not to expose them to the drivers or anyone else that could potentially corrupt them.

    This is very interesting and keeping with your post of them throwing away their most valuable resource--women.

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  23. Hi MamaK - I grew up driving in a small town too, and then in bigger towns. When we moved to the Miami-FtLauderdale area, I was intimidated by the drivers and the traffic, but I adjusted and did well. The traffic here is horrendous, and I don't think I would want to drive here if it didn't become more civilized and courteous. But to deny women the right to drive based on a bogus theory that women will become sluts or get raped is absurd and backward thinking. Thanks for your clarification!

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  24. Hi Yoli - Thanks for your comments. It looks like I have a little theme going on lately - women! It's a big issue for me here, and I'm glad that it is being discussed.

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  25. As a Westerner I too am insulted by this man's ignorant comments. I know cultural bias is everywhere. However, to treat women as second class citizens, like they have no mind of their own is appalling. I really don't want any man thinking for me, whether I love them or not. I want choice, to make mistakes and have success. Of course as a gypsy I'd freak out without my wheels. Hats off to you Susie for surviving in such a limiting society, and for speaking out.

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  26. Thanks for the head's up on MEMRI. A great resource on various Middle East opinions is http://www.linktv.org/mosaic - my History prof pointed out this link once, it includes news stories from throughout the Middle East on various channels.

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  27. Many clerics like the one in the video confuse modern life with Western influence. Saudi Arabia is no longer a society of nomadic herders and small traders. Saudi cities don't look like pictures from old National Geographic magazines. We now all (yes all of us US or Saudi) buy mass produced items, food brought to market in large refrigerated trucks. Few of us can live like one of my late aunts who could do all her shopping on foot (in the US before 1970).

    Saudi Arabia needs to adjust its culture to practicality. People no longer live within walking distance of everything they need. The cars that allowed us to spread farther out, mean that everyone must have access to transportation. Leaving women out, has made Saudi society so much more wasteful (all these drivers paid to drive women who could easily learn to turn that key).

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  28. One more comment. Permissive isn't quite the same thing as decadent.

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  29. Hi Susie--I agree that this video represents a current of thought and MEMRI doesn't falsify information or fabricate videos (although they may translate in a certain way) so much as select out the worst offenders, the most contrary to US values, and then elaborate on them as if that was all there is to Islam. This is probably the best video to crystallize the type of thinking you were referring to.

    Daniel Pipes is similar to MEMRI in that he is highly selective and biased toward an anti-Islam, pro-Israel stance.

    MEMRI and Daniel Pipes can be counted on to bring you the worst of Islam, although I have no doubt you are living similar "party lines" as to those in the video.

    (I was in China when we were awakened at 6am by recitings of Chairman Mao on loud speakers throughout the city--unbelievable but true)

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  30. Anon: I wasn't defending MEMRI at all. I stated earlier that I know of its bias and selectivity.

    And no, there is no big difference between a westerner who decides that everything about the East and Islam is bad b/c of viewing a few selected biased tv shows (That MEMRI shows) and an Arab who decides everything about the West is corrupt (After viewing tv shows or movies loaded with violence and sex).......both are being willfully ignorant and biased.

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  31. I read the post really fast, and I’m writing my comment at the same speed, as I’ve a lot of things to finish for tomorrow, so sorry in advance if I misunderstood any issue.

    Is it necessary to uncover to drive? I understand, for what he says that the main problem is not in the fact of driving, but in the fact that driving means being uncovered. If woman can eat covered or uncovered, woman can drive covered or uncovered… So if covered, the problem ends? Then give her the right to drive although covered!

    If someone does not know how to drive in a civilized way, teach them again, so you do not have to forbid driving -for their own protection- the other half of the population. Driving wild does not make them better persons, but instead closer to animals.

    If you allow woman to drive in KSA, then you solve another problem, hiring a male driver, usually non related, you save money and temptations. But instead of seeing that, what he sees is the easy opportunity for woman to meet all kinds of young men, and mix with men, c’mon, one is enough for us!

    What I see in this statement is man projecting their weakness toward woman. So Freud. Because he is probably describing his acts and thoughts as woman’s acts and thoughts, so they forbid woman to do anything some of them may think or do, they do not want woman to behave like they do.

    I did not realize until I read his words, that instead of a free person, I’m being exploited in my honour and dignity, but it seems not enough as all I got now is not all I want for me. So I should try harder and offer me to everybody :o) that way I can get anything! what a way of losing my time, as a western I should be ashamed of not knowing that, being so normal here... hahaha…if I only had known before! Talking serious is one of the most contemptible theories I’ve ever heard. Does he speak in first person? Is what he would do as an employer? Testing all female workers?

    A special mention to the part he says that in west any man can satisfy his desires outside of marriage, haha maybe, some do some don’t, it depends on each man’s education, beliefs or personal circumstances, but don’t most man all over the world do the same although their religion (whichever it is) forbids them? Doing it or not is in each man personality, not in which part of the world he lives. And what about KSA married man when travelling alone, or even with their family (leaving them at the hotel), going to look for hookers? It’s a well known issue. Cheating to your partner is not a local or a western issue but worldwide.

    For what he says, my friends, woman relatives, female co-workers… we all should have been raped a million times, but… we’ve never been. In west, for the majority of man, no means NO. Where does he get this crazy idea?

    The only thing I agree with him is that still, in many countries our salary is lower than the man’s, and that we work more than they do. But at least, we can work, you know?

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  32. LOL

    I never knew that I,as a woman,wanting to drive a car equals the same thing as harlotry!

    I am sure I just look like the biggest slut driving around with my 3 kids in my big green minivan. ROFL!

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  33. Sabiwabi--Harlot On Wheels? LOL :D

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  34. Hi Gaelyn - Thanks for your comments. That women here cannot be trusted to uphold their own morals if allowed to drive, and that men here cannot be trusted to control themselves without raping every woman in sight is a very sad statement. I would like to have the choice myself too...

    Hi Mel - Thanks for the Linktv.org link!

    Hi Jerry - Everything you mentioned is so true - thanks for commenting.

    Hi Chiara - So interesting about your experience in China - would love to hear more about it sometime!

    Hi EasternRef - "Willfully ignorant and biased" - great description. Thanks!

    Hi Puca - Common sense should dictate that allowing women to drive will not create all those problems cited by the cleric. I don't see how it possibly could in a society where modesty and honor is drilled into everyone from birth. The mentality is that men are the ones who cannot be trusted, therefore the women must be punished.

    Hi SabiWabi - I laughed so hard when I read your remarks - thanks! I needed that!

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  35. I've been lurking on your blog for a while, and I have to say I find it fascinating. I guess I'm another "harlot on wheels" as I drive my 6-month-old son (who was fathered by my husband, thankyouverymuch) around and go to the grocery store....

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  36. Lindsey, when you said "harlot on wheels" I pictured prostitutes skating around on rollerblades, LOL.

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  37. I ride public transit most of the time! I must be a harlot of harlots, as I'm sharing the bus with...loads of unrelated men!!! :)

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  38. What an interesting blog, glad I found you. We lived in an Islamic country too but I am glad that we are allowed to drive..On one particular state the Islamic rules are more stricter, so a proper dress code is required but no covering of face or palms required. Have a good day.

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  39. Chiara, the video on American Bedu's "Saudi Arabia: Is it Okay to Beat a Woman?" post has MEMRI's name on it.

    Another Anonymous

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  40. Women in other Gulf states drive; some cover their faces (not their eyes, of course), and it's not a problem.

    Every so often, there's a news report that Saudi is going to let women drive - in a limited way to start with. For example, married women in a certain age range, during certain hours... basically to take the kids to school and go to work, run errands, etc. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet.

    Permitting women to drive would eliminate the need for some drivers, but in neighboring countries, even when women drive, families often still have drivers. They drive the elderly members of the family, take the kids to school, run errands, etc. Some of my sisters-in-law drive when they have to but prefer not to; they drove a lot when the children were young, but now that they have sons able to drive them, they count on them. There's no question of the son refusing to take his mother somewhere.

    And many religious people do not think that it's acceptable for a woman to be alone in a car with a driver. They either don't use drivers, or they make sure that someone else is always in the car. For example, if a woman needs the driver to take her somewhere, she's bring someone else with her, even if it's the maid.

    Another Anonymous

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  41. Women in other Gulf states drive; some cover their faces (not their eyes, of course), and it's not a problem.

    Every so often, there's a news report that Saudi is going to let women drive - in a limited way to start with. For example, married women in a certain age range, during certain hours... basically to take the kids to school and go to work, run errands, etc. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet.

    Permitting women to drive would eliminate the need for some drivers, but in neighboring countries, even when women drive, families often still have drivers. They drive the elderly members of the family, take the kids to school, run errands, etc. Some of my sisters-in-law drive when they have to but prefer not to; they drove a lot when the children were young, but now that they have sons able to drive them, they count on them. There's no question of the son refusing to take his mother somewhere.

    And many religious people do not think that it's acceptable for a woman to be alone in a car with a driver. They either don't use drivers, or they make sure that someone else is always in the car. For example, if a woman needs the driver to take her somewhere, she's bring someone else with her, even if it's the maid.

    Another Anonymous

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  42. How in the world do the Saudi women put up with such arrogant buffoons? I would guess that passive aggressive retaliation would take on new meaning.I can't imagine being married to someone who would hold such ignorant ideas.....and I thought red-necks were the worst!

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  43. Another Anonymous--Thanks, I hadn't noticed since I had seen that video before (probably a while ago when I was looking into MEMRI)and was more interested in other references in the post. The 2 in a row on the other blogsite posting were a shock. Oy vey!! :)

    Susie--Thanks! China was my first experience of a highly controlled stat. They all wind up being very similar despite the obvious differences!

    One of my inlaws, a Moroccan subspecialist in Internal Medicine, refused a lucratic offer to Saudi Arabia, at least in part because she wanted greater freedom as a Muslim woman (as she had in Morocco), and specifically mentioned wanting to be able to drive--which she does well, fast, and safely, like she does everything else.

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  45. I have a Saudi friend whom he married to a western wife. He told me once that if my wife was able to understand what guys around say about the people who are different,you will not see her face with me .she will go back to her country..I guess by now she knew it, got shocked for sure but then again she loves her husband who is trying fiercefully to change his people minds every single day.Things are changing right now in Saudi .I am glad to see many people are part of that process like this friend of mine .

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  46. Susie, I find some deep-hidden secrets about religion and Arab societies on non-Muslim websites. For example, when the certain prince tortured the grain dealer no local paper covered the story. This same guy’s gay and drunk brother attacked a man in the West five years ago and not a peep from the country for 5 years (and still counting). If it wasn’t for these websites, we would never find out what nonsense people like this chap spew.

    True that this video is from the notorious MEMRI, but that is not the original source. This chap is a religious authority and is talking on camera. He is making conclusions and judgments based on his religious knowledge, shouldn’t he be more cautious about what he says? What does he expect, that he will make blanket statements and no one will misuse his words to make blanket statements about Muslims and Arabs? He should have been so careful about what he was spewing. Look at the crazy comments some idiots are leaving on the video on YouTube; they aren’t even relevant to the topic. And I blame this man for it.

    There are Muslim women who drive in Muslim countries. KSA is the only country that doesn’t allow it and there is no religious basis for it. In fact women drive in villages even inside KSA. The Prophet’s wives had their own camels and Aisha’s camel’s legs were chopped off by Ali during the Battle of the Camel showing her independence even after the Prophet’s death.

    BTW, I couldn’t detect any mistranslation in this particular clip although I agree that MEMRI sometimes offers very poor translation even if it is not wrong.

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  47. A Free Spirit--it is good to know of these individual efforts.

    Suroor--I for one am certainly not claiming that Memri videos should not be used, only that one should be aware of the nature of their provenance. As I stated above, they are usually only one-sided though not faked, nor necessarily wrong in their translation, only skewed. I'm glad this was one of the better translations. Also, given all of that, as I stated, they may be the best choice to illustrate a given point. However, it is important to still be aware that this is not the totality of Islam, even in Saudi Arabia, despite legislation.

    Thank you for the reminder of the Battle of the Camel. I understood both Aisha's use of her litter on a camel led by her followers, and Ali's hamstringing it to be tactics of war rather than issues of independence or mobility.

    No one pre- 1970's Saudi seems to have thought to prevent women riding in or on whatever 4 wheeled or 4 legged "vehicle". Even the Ayatollah Khomeini never came up with that one. Needless to say, I am all for the independence of mobility by whatever means! :)

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  48. Chiara, My comment was more general and not directed towards you. You and I, we know each other so I would have said something more directly to you if that was the case. I was just supporting Susie. I am certain she knows where MEMRI is coming from.

    Those were tactics of war indeed but what I wanted to point out is that like now widows are often house-arrested in some Muslim societies, that was not the case in early Islam. Women were mobile and independent, even widows of prominent Muslim men - in fact so much that they waged wars. So like the man in the video claims that if women drive and go out they will commit sins, that has no historical or religious basis.

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  49. Suroor--thanks for the follow-up comment. I probably should have made mine a general one too (the academic's obsession with proper accreditation/citation! :) )

    The point about MEMRI was more that others (than Susie) didn't seem to know where MEMRI was coming from, as some acknowledged above. It is a good place to find certain things.

    About the Battle of the Camel, perhaps your knowledge led to a short cut in your expression which left the meaning more vague than in your follow-up.

    In any case, we are agreed on mobility, independence and leadership for women. :)

    It is sad to me, that many people with only new knowledge about Saudi don't realize that the current state of affairs :( is only the status quo for about 30 years. :)

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  50. I always find it pure hypocrisy to use the excuse that women will turn into wanton harlots if given even a modicum of freedom to control their own lives...completely ignoring the fact that they cant very well be wanton harlots all by themselves...eh?

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  51. Some friends and I had talked about this many times, being men we found out that whatever these people "Cleric" say the don't want women to drive is absurd.

    these people say what the say because the don't trust their own being.

    or should i say they either don't trust there own women or think that every man is a predator like them selves.

    i must not all Cleric's are like them

    Islam didn't say make life hard on women, but i guess that what they think.

    the women in my family do drive out side of Saudi and i don't have problem with that, it made my life easier, fact ^.^

    my mom is a hard working women, she worked and raised three boys on her own in a world that looked down on her, a man called a father who did nothing but yet he is a man who abused and used and throw her away.

    yet to me women driving in Saudi is not my main priority, there is a lot of things that women need here before driving.

    they way i see it, the Cleric's talk about women driving to hide other REAL issues.

    at least that what i think

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  52. While Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi in Kuwait 4 women are elected MP and two of them aren't veiled!

    Saudi must learn to get out of the middle age...the whole world is moving forward and Saudi is moving backward. Allowing womem to drive is a small simbol.

    The sad part about the clown who made the video isn't him but all men who agree with him.

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  53. Despite statistics here in the UAE that do not implicate women in the cause of the incredibly high traffic-related deaths, people generally think that women are bad drivers (universal, it would seem). Even local women have made similar comments to me! A local public service campaign indicates as much. Check it out here: http://auhgal.blogspot.com/2009/05/slow-down.html

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  54. women make better drivers than a lot of men!!!

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  55. Hello again Susie,

    I'm curious to ask a few questions about women and transport in KSA: Can Saudi women can by-pass the no car driving rule by independently riding a motorbike, scooter, pushbike or other form of transport? Are these forms of transport socially unacceptable for women? I assume it would be very challenging to ride a bike in the heat, with a billowing abbaya. I would be tempted though, if nothing else was available. What about taxis? Are women allowed to travel in a taxi by themselves? Can booking taxis be a viable alternative to hiring a driver?

    Are there decent public transport systems in the cities? Can women at least access reliable bus/train services to venture out?

    If anyone else can answer these questions, I would be interested to know more.

    Regards

    Kristina

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  56. Kristina, neither Saudi women nor Saudi men ride around on motorbikes or scooters. And considering the way people drive, it would be dangerous. In places like Malaysia and Indonesia, you see that, though.

    Suroor said: "Women were mobile and independent, even widows of prominent Muslim men - in fact so much that they waged wars."

    Those women still didn't go without mahram. In the incident you mentioned, Hafsah (ra) wanted to go out with Aisha (ra) but stayed behind because her brother told her not to go. Aisha (ra), much respected and considered a mother to the believers, was accompanied by trustworthy men, and she did this because it was a critical situation. She traveled on a camel, but in a covered carriage.

    Another Anonymous

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  57. God forbide! How can women not be allowed to drive? It's akin to chaining women and never letting them see daylight!

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  58. Hafsa and Aisha were wives of the Prophet and therefore were subjected to a stricter code of conduct then the rest of women. I might add that one of the Prophets wives did go to the market alone once...and others were critical of her leaving her home without the permission of her husband who they knew was away....she hurried home and waited for him to arrive to tell him of what the people said. He told her...you have my permission to leave the house for your needs.

    Exactly what her "needs" were he did not list specifically...so we are left to assume that she was allowed to determine what her needs were and whether she felt she needed to leave the house to fullfill them.

    Women in Saudi are far more constricted in movement then they ever were in the days of the Prophet.

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  59. oops...my point being about him allowing to leave the house for her needs was that women do not need a mahrem for every little thing they do...thats just an excuse to keep them bound up and controlled.

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  60. Yeah, MEMRI is a great source of appalling things.

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  61. "MEMRI is a great source of appalling things"
    yes, unfortunately they are all true, in contrast to movies or tv shows.
    I understand that some might object to what MEMRI publishes (or, perhaps to where it is located) on the other hand none of the things one can find there are untrue.

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  62. Keats, I'm not even sure if your comment was serious or sarcastic, but just because a woman doesn't drive doesn't mean that she's chained in a dungeon. I have sisters-in-law that don't drive (including some that have driver's licenses). One has her own car (she bought it herself and paid for it) and driver; she goes anywhere she wants, because this man's job is simply to drive her where she wants to go. He takes care of the car, runs errands, drops her off where she tells him, and picks her up when she's finished. She doesn't have to wash the car, go to the gas station, drive around looking for a parking place, walk to a far-off parking space in 120 degree(F) heat, carry her bags across the parking lot, or anything else - not to mention get aggravated having to deal with the maniacs who drive around here.

    Obviously, not every woman has a driver, but many do, and many women in Saudi own cars.

    Another Anonymous

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  63. Another Anon: Regardless, not all women have the luxury of having a driver and a car for themselves. This policy in Saudi is more of a burden for women in general than "protecting" them in any way. It's ridiculous to think that it's doing anything of the sort.

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  64. "Obviously, not every woman has a driver, but many do, and many women in Saudi own cars."

    And for the "few" women who don't have the luxury of a driver and a car, or have male relatives that can afford or be nice enough to take time out of their day to take the women around? What choice do they have? Barely none.

    I'm sorry, but to think this policy "protects" women or isn't THAT BAD is ridiculous. And how can one really OWN a car if they can't even DRIVE it? Is the title in their name or in their husband's or male guardian's name? They can't even partake in official business without a male relative's approval. I'd be surprised if the title of a car they can't even drive is in their name.

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  65. Yes, Saudi women own cars. There's even a car dealership staffed by women, for women buyers. (Maybe that's where the photo for this post came from?)

    From a 2007 Reuters article titled "Car makers target Saudi women despite driving ban":

    Car ownership by women rose 60 percent from 2003 to 2006, according to figures published by state oil firm Saudi Aramco this year. It said 75,522 women owned 120,334 vehicles by the end of 2006.

    Another Anonymous

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  66. Saudi women may own the cars, having the titles in their name....but it's still disingenuous to say "Saudi women own cars" as if they can actually drive it.

    What average Saudi woman can afford a "Cadillac [that] comes with special control mechanisms in the rear seat for everything but the steering wheel." Nice to know the non-average Saudi woman can at least control the speed of her driver, but not the steering wheel. That would definitely be driving then!!! Also nice to know women can own, buy, and sell a product that they can't ever use on their own. Where the heck is the logic in that????

    At least the other articles on the same subject said that this could push the issue of women driving even further as demand and growth of female influence in this area continues.

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  67. OK, I got it... they do own cars, but it's disingenuous to say that they own cars... @@

    Another Anonymous

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  68. Just because women drive that does not mean they will meet a guy and have an affair. And even if she did meet someone is it a bad thing, she might be meeting the man of her dreams!
    You don't need to protect the women coz us women are far more careful in our lives and the way we live. If we do anything too drastic, then there is likelihood that we will be pregnant.
    Its the men we have to be careful about as they can sleep around with whoever and get away with anything. It is sick to see this guy chatting such rubbish. This guy is probably saying "we should protect our women" but doing something quite the opposite. I wish sometimes in the future countries like KSA should be run by women, where women take over the men and control what they do, like they are doing to their women at present.

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  69. Is it not also a means of keeping the poor, poor. The rich can afford a car and driver for the female members of a household so the rich woman can be driven to work (sitting with that unrelated male in a confined space) and earn money / pass her time . The poor person cant afford either so cant even do the few job that are available to them .
    Is it not also a means of keeping the woman under the man’s control . She cant do anything without that driver and car – who provides those – that man.
    During the 1990/91 the Saudi authorities relied on an army with many female drivers – yes the USA – of course that was not a problem . Let the women of a foreign country fight for the Saudi men who are spending all their time controlling their women – some of whom are their mothers, who brought them up only to be treated as ?!

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  70. Actually, workplaces that employ women often provide transportation for them.

    Another Anonymous

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  71. i am a woman who lives in Saudi Arabia and a supporter of driving for women we need to drive maybe more than men and there is absolutely nothing in our religion that forbids driving so i really can't see what this so called man of religion is building up his speech upon and if it were really for our safety from the abuse of men then why not severely punish the abusers instead( want to know why i really think they are against the idea because they want to have absolute control over there wives and daughters they look to women as if we were slaves and want us to look to them as if they were gods in return ) and of course i don't mean that all the Saudi men are like that god knows some of them actually wants what's best for there women and daughters.

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  72. Hi Susie,

    I know this is an older post, but having recently discovered your blog (via Eman Al Nafjan's blog) I have been doing some exploring. I've lived in the Middle East for a few years now, and know all about Saudi nonsense. I have, however, never took the time to listen to an argument for something like not allowing women to drive because I always viewed it as a waste of time.

    While reading this post I watched the inserted clip and it took my breath away for a moment. It's an in your face example of what must be overcome in Saudi. It also shows what must be overcome in a country like America, as the smiles and handshakes from American Presidents over the years are just so wrong.

    By chance, Eman will be writing about this topic next month in RELATIVTY OnLine and I will surely link you post into her article.

    Keep up the great work!

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  73. Hi all
    So now you guys are wondering why that Muslim cleric has the idea of generalizing on Westerns' societies and at the same time some of you believes that most Muslims slap and insult their wives and can't be good as you are.
    Cheers

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  74. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon this web site and I'd like to tell you that I have actually enjoyed reading your articles. I'll be subscribing to your feed anyway and I hope you'll post again soon. Big thanks for the good info.

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  75. God curse you... All muslims are terrorists?! What are you saying all people are equal and we all have different backgrounds. However that does not mean that Muslims nor westerns are bad! Everywhere, there are good and bad people!

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  76. Anonymous @ 08:44 PM - You've got your panties all bunched up for nothing! You took what I said out of context and did not understand what I was saying - you need to re-read it. I am married to a Muslim, for heaven's sake! Curse you for misinterpreting what I said.

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