Thirty-two year-old Manal al-Sharif was released from a women's detention facility in Al Khobar a few days ago, after spending about ten days behind bars. She would not have been arrested or been the subject of worldwide news coverage and debate if women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Women are prohibited from driving in this country and must rely on male members of their family to drive them around to work, to shop, or to the doctor. Saudi women who can afford it are forced to employ foreign male drivers or must hire taxis driven by men to take them where they need to go, even though these practises actually violate Islamic law. In Saudi Arabia, unrelated men and women are forbidden from being in alone together in closed company to prevent intimate sexual encounters or inappropriate actions such as kissing, touching, or hugging between men and women who are not married or related to each other.
This Arab News article details her release from jail but what is even more interesting and distressing are the ignorant comments in response to the article from those who are against women driving in KSA. While the majority of comments express total support for Manal and for the rights of the women of Saudi Arabia, those against reveal the backward mentality of the minority who wish to keep Saudi women shut in at home under man's control.
The following is the English translation of Manal Al-Sharif's statement on release from detention. I can only wonder about the sincerity of these words and feel that Manal was coerced into making this statement as a condition of her release...
I would first and foremost like to express my profound gratitude to our leaders, in particular the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for ordering my release from detention, a gesture that does not come as a surprise knowing the King’s benevolence toward his sons and daughters in this honorable country.
Concerning the topic of women’s driving, I will leave it up to our Leader in whose discretion I entirely trust, to weigh the pros and cons and reach a decision that will take into consideration the best interests of the People, while also being pleasing to Allah, and in line with Divine Law.
On this happy occasion, I would also like to affirm that never in my life had I been anything beside a Muslim, Saudi woman who aspires to remain in God’s good graces and to safeguard the reputation of our beloved country. And I will continue to uphold these values and principles until the day I meet my Creator whose compassion, and King Abdullah’s big heart, has helped me to persevere through my short-lived ordeal.
That said, I was stunned to learn of the accusations hurled at my religious and moral beliefs especially that they originated from individuals I least expected to go down that route. I held my breath for those speaking in the name of religion and others-May Allah guide them rightly-to do me some justice, and that if I had done wrong to blame me only accordingly and fairly, without defaming my faith, creed, and moral system. For at the end of the day I’m everyone’s sister and daughter. Yet how could they wound their sister and daughter with such charges? From the bottom of my heart though I beseech Allah to shower on them his forgiveness for the serious harm they’ve caused me.
Furthermore, I must point out I do not authorize any individual to speak on my behalf or put words in my mouth, whatever their personal agenda.
Finally, I pray for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. He is Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
Translated by Zaki Safar (@safarzo)
May 30, 2011