After reports emerged from the Middle East recently about the Saudi royals possibly getting ready to lift the kingdom’s ban on women driving, a Saudi prince has walked back his earlier remarks about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. According to Gulf News, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said the question of whether to allow women to drive is “not a religious issue as much as it is an issue that relates to the community itself that either accepts it or refuses it.” The 30-year-old, who has gained increasing powers in the kingdom since his father, King Salman, took over the monarchy last year, had previously indicated that women were on the verge of being granted the right to drive. “If women were allowed to ride camels [in the time of the Prophet Muhammad], perhaps we should let them drive cars, the modern-day camels,” bin Salman reasoned, according to recent reports. He added, “We believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to obtain.”
But this week, he struck a vastly different tone suggesting popular opinion may be the reason behind his reversal. “The community is not convinced about women driving,” bin Salman said this week, adding that many believe allowing women the right to drive will result in negative consequences. Indeed, earlier this month a top Saudi cleric used similar rhetoric when he said driving is “a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil.” Bin Salman also left open the possibility of women being allowed to drive, vaguely saying that “changes could happen in the future.”
Women enjoy few, if any rights in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom just allowed women to run for public office for the first time in elections last year, but they’re still required to obtain a guardian’s consent to travel outside the country or get married. And if they want a quick cup of coffee, which would seem like a simple and mundane undertaking, they’re not even allowed to stand in the same line as men at Starbucks.
Read the full story at Gulf News.