Under the unofficial rules governing Saudi Arabia’s strict fundamentalist society, women are forbidden from driving automobiles. Although the Quran, which is the basis for Saudi laws, could not possibly address such a subject, as it was written well over one thousand years ago, most Saudi clerics have determined that women driving automobiles is haram (forbidden). Saudi Arabia’s unofficial religious policemen (Haia) have taken it upon themselves to enforce this primitive custom.
This week, Aliyah Al Farid was pulled over by police and fined after driving herself to the hospital for a medical emergency. Well aware of Saudi Arabia’s mandates against women driving, she said that there was no one around the house to drive her to the ER, so she took it upon herself to get behind the wheel.
Al Farid is a human rights activist who has in the past tried to expose Saudi Arabia for its barbaric treatment against women.
She said of the incident, “I told the traffic officers that I had to drive because it was an emergency case. I didn’t do it on purpose and I’m not after fame or media hype. I was very sick and that was it.”
“We can’t leave an epileptic patient convulsing on the ground while waiting for our male driver to come and transport him to the hospital,” she added. “I have to get behind the steering wheel to do it.”
Not only are women forbidden from driving cars, they must also receive permission from a mahram (close male relative such as a son or husband) simply to be able to travel outside the boundaries of their home.
According to Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Saalih Al-Munajjid, a well-respected cleric in the Islamic world, women should not be allowed to drive for the following reasons:
1. Driving the car necessitates that women remove the niqab, which covers the face. Women must wear the niqab in Saudi Arabia, mostly for fear of punishment should the religious police see them without full cover. The niqab is a black full-body cloth with a thin slot for the eyes.
2. Driving requires women to leave the house, “but their homes are better for them.”
3. They lose their modesty, so it protects them from “fitnah” (temptations).
4. Divorced women will be able to go wherever they want.
5. It is a means of “rebellion.”
6. She may cause an “immoral man” to “take advantage of her in return for helping her” if her car breaks down.
7. It will lead to “overcrowding in the streets.”
8. Women won’t be able to stop buying new fashion items because women”by their nature–like to make themselves look good with clothing etc,” and they will keep buying new cars “whenever a new model appears.”