Saudi Women Drivers

A top Saudi cleric says nothing in the Koran forbids women from driving cars.

John Burgess sees evidence that “the logjam that prevents Saudi women from driving” may be about to break.  He notes that the Saudi Gazette has passed along without comment a Reuters story that paves the way.

A top Saudi cleric challenged a ban on women driving Tuesday, saying women should be allowed more social participation in the Kingdom.  “Clerics have studied the issue and no one has come up with a (Holy Qur’an) verse that would forbid female driving,” said Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, head of Makkah region’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a). “I do not consider it to be forbidden,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a women’s empowerment event here.

Either the rules will change or Al-Ghamdi will cease to be heard from, I’d guess.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    Well, since his statement 100% matches what the King has said, I’m betting he keeps his job.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Interesting.  I wouldn’t have thought the king would have issued a statement on something so provocative without prior cover from the clerics.

  3. Rose says:

    The king speaking his mind on this means nothing much since his throne is pretty shaky anyway. Neither does one fairly enlightened cleric’s voice mean much. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

  4. John Burgess says:

    @Rose: Shaky? Really? Other than STRATFOR’s, I’m not aware of any similar analysis. This particular king has popularity ratings in the high 90% range, According to Pew Research, his popularity extends across the Arab world.
    @James: Several years ago, he publicly stated that there’s no religious bar, no legal bar, but that society had to get used to the idea before it happened. I think that’s exactly right. Women do drive in Saudi Arabia, but not in the major cities. Particularly in rural areas, you’ll find women driving pick-ups and 4x4s every day of the year. Saudi media makes a point of lauding women who drive to get male family members to medical facilities, even in the major cities.

  5. sam says:

    Ah, an originalist argument: “Driving a car is nowhere mentioned in the Qur’an.”

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Must resist the urge to make a sexist parallel parking joke.  Must . . . resist . . .