Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh has defended a ban on female drivers, saying it is “a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil”.
Men with “weak spirits” and who are “obsessed with women” could cause female drivers harm, the Grand Mufti a told religious television channel, Almajd, according to the The Telegraph. The top cleric added that it would also make it difficult for family members to know about their whereabouts.
Women’s rights have long been a contentious issue in the Kingdom. Although driving is not technically illegal for women, it is essentially forbidden since a local license is required and they are not issued to females.
Apart from women’s rights, the Grand Mufti has also spoken on a range of other matters. In March, he forbids Muslims in Saudi Arabia from playing chess, claiming it shows “enmity and hatred”.
In 2014, Sheikh al-Sheikh claimed Twitter was the “source of all evil and devastation”, and that the use of the social media site “promotes evil and harm”.
Last year, women’s rights campaigner Loujain al-Hathloul received a 10-week jail sentence after she drove from the United Arab Emirates to the Saudi border in protest of the ban.
Recently, however, tentative steps are being taken towards better representation of women in the male-dominated kingdom. In November, the first-ever women’s election campaign was held, which led to 17 women being elected into public office in municipal elections in December.
According to Human Rights Watch, authorities also said divorced and widowed women would be allowed to get family ID cards for their children in future, so they can register them in schools and with healthcare services.