In a television debate, that aired May 19, 2007 on LBC TV, Saudi women's rights activist Sleiman Al-Sleiman, Intisar Falamban of the Saudi road safety department, and Dr. Sleiman Al-'Eid, head of the Islamic Culture department at King Saud University, debated whether women should be allowed to drive.
While Al-Sleiman stated that women needed to drive because they had begun to leave the home to work and do errands, Falamban argued that she was more concerned about protecting children from traffic accidents and was not demanding this right. Dr. Al-'Eid warned that driving would lead women to leave their homes more often, wear makeup, and uncover their faces, and would also undermine men's custodianship over them.
The following are excerpts from the debate.
To view this clip, please visit: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1475 .
Saudi Women Need To Drive
Sleiman Al-Sleiman, women's rights activist: "We hope an immediate decision will be made allowing women to drive. This is not a luxury. Women in Saudi Arabia really need to drive cars, because women have begun to work. Beforehand, there was no justification for women driving cars, but women have begun going to work, to their jobs, their shops, to the market. We are living in modern cities. Our demand to allow women to drive is a pressing and natural demand. It is a woman's natural right to drive a car. Women will respect the Islamic moral values when they drive, Allah willing."
Moderator: "What do you think? Do you agree?"
Intisar Falamban, road safety department: "In my opinion, women driving... I am not demanding that women be allowed to drive at present. My focus – not just as the head of the women's affairs committee – [is] to protect our children from car accidents."
Moderator: "Here's a woman who is not demanding to drive, so how come you, a man, are demanding this?"
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "On the contrary, she does not object to this. But she is not demanding it either."
Intisar Falamban: "I am not demanding this. It is up to our wise government. Once our wise government agrees, I will..."
"I Am Not Demanding To Allow Women To Drive"
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "But I have a question, Intisar."
Intisar Falamban: "Go ahead."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "Don't you need to drive?"
Intisar Falamban: "No, I don't. I have a chauffeur, and I have my husband, Allah be praised."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "You have a chauffeur, and you have the means you manage to get along, but there are widows and other women who need to drive. There are women who do not have the means to keep a chauffeur, or who get harmed by chauffeurs. For some women, tradition does not permit them to have a chauffeur. How are such women supposed to go to work? Is the husband supposed to be available to drive his wife around, or should he be free to work? If you have no need to drive, don't drive – but you just said that if you were allowed to drive, you would."
Intisar Falamban: "In such a case, there will be nothing to prevent it. Clearly, our government will only allow it when it knows there is no danger."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "So you will drive a car."
Intisar Falamban: "I will."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "Great."
Intisar Falamban: "But at present, I am not demanding to allow women to drive."
Moderator: "Is driving part of women's rights? Is it up to the woman to decide?"
Intisar Falamban: "It is considered one of the rights of women, but we are not used to driving cars. Is now the time to demand to drive? We haven't made this demand for years, so why demand it now? In my opinion, we should leave it to the rulers and then to the parents."
"The People Who Are Against Women Driving Are... Against Anything New"
Moderator: "What do you think?"
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "First of all, driving is a natural right of women."
Moderator: "But women do not care about this right."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "Who says they don't care about it?"
Moderator: "We have with us Intisar, who is an educated woman..."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "I am sure that if women were allowed to drive, Intisar would not write a petition against it. She is not against it, but she does not demand it either."
Moderator: "She is satisfied with the way things are, and wants things to take their natural course."
Intisar Falamban: "Dear sister, it's not that I am satisfied, but I don't deal with this, because the rulers... "
Moderator: "But you said at the beginning of the show..."
Intisar Falamban: "My dear, sooner or later, women will drive."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "We want it to be sooner..."
Intisar Falamban: "There's no need to rush things. Let's not deal with it, and the decision will come, Allah willing."
Sleiman Al-Sleiman: "The people who are against women driving are the same people who are against the education of women, and are against television and cellular phones with cameras. They are against anything new." [...]
If Women Can Drive, Men's Custodianship Over Them Will Diminish
Dr. Sleiman Al-'Eid, head of the Islamic culture department at King Saud University: "Driving will lead women to leave their homes a lot, whether they need to or not. In principle, women should stay at home, as everybody knows."
"In addition, this might lead women to wear make-up and uncover their faces. Even if you say that women will drive covered by a niqab, or dressed modestly, and so on, this will gradually lead her to uncover her face. This will also encourage her to be disobedient. There is no doubt that women will eventually be photographed, and these photos will be shown to other people – whether the traffic police or other who need to look at these photos, for identification or nay other purpose. This will lead women to mix with men."
"Another consequence of this will be the diminishing of men's guardianship over women. If a women drives, she will have a certain degree of independence, and she will come and go, travel, and so on. This will also lead to an increase in suspicions. When she has her own car, she will go out and return late."