Refleksi : Mengapa Muslimah di Indonesia, Turki, Maroko etc boleh mengemudi 
kendaraan, tetapi di Arab Saudia tidak dibolehkan? Siapa benar dalam tafsiran?

Women driving issue resurfaces

Published: May 16, 2010 00:00 Updated: May 16, 2010 00:00 

RIYADH: The issue of whether Saudi women should be allowed to drive came to the 
surface once more during a television program broadcast on the Al-Arabiya news 

Presenter Daud Al-Shriyan addressed the oft-debated issue of Saudi women 
driving in his program, Wajih Al-Sahafah (which means "Face the Press"), along 
with his guest Sheikh Ahmad Bin Baz, an Islamic affairs researcher and lecturer 
and the son of the Kingdom's late former grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who supports women driving, said the reasons behind stopping 
women from driving no longer exists. He added that a fatwa on the matter, 
issued by the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars, was given in a particular 
context in the early 1990s, a time when there was much upheaval in the region, 
including the Gulf War, Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and the arrival of US 
forces, something that some conservatives described as an American invasion.

He added that it was at this time that the actions of a small group of women 
who got into cars and drove around was rejected by these conservatives who 
viewed their actions as intimidating and a move away from the Islamic status 
quo. Sheikh Abdul Aziz added that the issue of women driving should not be 
viewed through a fatwa but as a general "right."

"Nowadays, stances and views have changed regarding everything and this is not 
an alien thing. Blocking pretexts (known in Arabic as Sadd Al-Dharai or 
"blocking the means to evil") is not necessary as not everything can lead to 
vices," said Sheikh Abdul Aziz, asking whether driving and the use of cars 
should also be banned if traffic accidents lead to the loss of life.

The son of the Kingdom's former grand mufti said forbidding women from driving 
fearing they may be sexually harassed indicates that "we do not trust out 
education system which teaches a sense of right and wrong that is derived from 
Islamic teaching. If we are in doubt about it, then we should re-evaluate it."

On the other hand, Naser Al-Oud, a professor of social services, looks at women 
driving as a cultural issue that needs to be studied from various angles. He 
added that there are no studies, surveys or research to elucidate the impact of 
foreign drivers on society.

There are over 740,000 drivers in the Kingdom, said Al-Oud, adding that this is 
harmful to the economy as drivers send remittances abroad, harmful to families 
as drivers sometimes interfere in family matters, harmful to society as drivers 
are sometimes involved in crime and harmful to laborers as drivers are often 
involved in human trafficking. Al-Oud said Saudi society rejects novel changes, 
which he said also includes women driving, something that makes men feel 
relegated from a dominant position in society. "But the thing is, it is not the 
men of the house who are the actual ones driving and fulfilling their families' 
needs. It is the foreign drivers," he said.

Mohammad Al-Zulfa, a former member of the Shoura Council, refuses seeing women 
as fragile and in need of protection. "Women are much stronger than we imagine. 
There are many widows and divorcees who provide for their entire families," he 
said, adding that people should have faith in them and they should be trusted.

He added that issues involving women are sensitive and are often dealt with in 
a conservative fashion. "The Shoura usually puts an issue up for discussion 
should there be a recommendation to do so. Yet the issue of driving has not 
even been presented for discussion, as there is a fatwa on the matter issued by 
the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars in 1990-1991. We need a fatwa to annul 
the previous one or a royal decree," he said.

Al-Zulfa said religious institutes tolerate women mixing or being in khalwa 
with their drivers but stop short of allowing women to drive. "It is a cultural 
and social issue rather than a religious one," he said, adding that it is a 
political decision and should be dealt with by the government. What Al-Zulfa 
says about the issue being a social and cultural matter, rather than a 
religious one, is something that Bin Baz agrees on. "There are rights the 
government should give like education, health care and the ability to move and 
use transportation freely," he said.

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