June 3, 2011

Shoura ready to discuss women driving if requested

Arab news

Shoura Council Chairman Abdullah Al-Asheikh.


JEDDAH: Speaker of the Shoura Council Abdullah Al-Asheikh said on Thursday the council was ready to discuss the issue of women driving if it was asked to.

“The issue has not so far been tabled with the council for discussion,” he said, adding that not every issue in the public domain was discussed by the council.

Explaining the mechanism of tabling issues for discussion at the council, Al-Asheikh said a motion must either come from the government, at least one member of the council or when the council itself expressed a desire to deliberate a certain issue, reported local Arabic daily Al-Jazirah.

Saudi writer and columnist Abdullah Abdul Sattar Al-Alami said he and a group of other people formally asked the council to discuss the issue of women driving.

“We sent our request in a letter sent by express mail on Feb. 8, 2011,” he said in a statement to Arab News Thursday.

Al-Alami said the request was signed by a large number of academics, literary figures, media professionals, businessmen and women, housewives, students, government employees, a former ambassador, a former undersecretary to the UN secretary-general, a deputy CEO of a big company in the Eastern Province and a prominent member of the National Society for Human Rights.

He said the council's committee called them to discuss the issue on pleas on March 15, but the invitation was canceled the same day without any reason.

“While we appreciate the council's efforts to consider the issues of society, we urge it to review the project that we have submitted to it and contains the advantages of allowing women to drive cars and the negative effects resulting from the presence of a large number of foreign drivers socially and economically as well as from a security point of view,” he said.

The issue has become the subject of hot debate since Saudi woman Manal Al-Sharif drove her car openly in the eastern city of Alkhobar and was detained for 10 days.

A number of views for and against were expressed in local media and websites. A number of women launched an Internet campaign to allow them to drive their own cars. A number of scholars and writers were in agreement that allowing women to drive was not against Islam.

Muhammad Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, a Saudi writer, said in an article in Al-Jazirah on Thursday that the ball was now in the court of the political leadership since the issue was political rather than religious.

“Islamic teachings, which did not prevent women from mounting camels and horses, would not forbid them from driving cars,” he wrote.

Al-Sheikh expressed astonishment at why a decision had not been taken on the issue so far and said it was something society was more prepared to accept than ever.

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