In a TV debate, Islamic researcher Hussein Al-Nu'ami said that women should not be allowed to drive because they are "subject to menstruation and pregnancy" and "internal psychological factors", which "prevent women from coping with pressure." Al-Nu'ami claimed that the rates of rape, fornication, and divorce were higher in societies in which women drove. His argument was countered by Saudi journalist Daham Al-'Anzi, who asked him: "If a woman commits an act of depravity, what's that got to do with driving?" The debate was broadcast on the Saudi Selah TV channel and posted on the Internet on September 26, 2014.
Following are excerpts:
Islamic researcher Hussein Al-Nu'ami: I have some statistics that indicate that in 2013, Saudi society was number one in the world in road accidents. Nowadays, we witness traffic congestion and the problems that stem from that. If women were to start driving things would go from bad to worse.
In addition, physiologically and psychologically, women are subject to menstruation and pregnancy, for example. There are internal psychological factors at work, which prevent women from coping with pressure. For example, they suffer from lower back pain or abdominal pain, or from depression due to their different internal functions. In addition, her hormones might make her prone to unnatural behavior. Women suffer from impaired vision during menstruation.
We know that traffic congestion, in addition to the weather… It is extremely hot in Saudi Arabia especially in Riyadh. If a man cannot stand the heat, and it puts him in a bad mood, what would become of a woman if she is pregnant or menstruating?
Saudi society is not used to women leaving their homes and doing a man's job. As my dear colleague mentioned, it is forbidden for a woman to be alone with her chauffeur. We say that women should not be allowed to drive, but this does not mean that they are allowed to be alone with their foreign chauffeurs. The Prophet Muhammad forbade this.
Moderator: Is it considered forbidden?
Hussein Al-Nu'ami: Of course. Islamic law forbids women to be alone with their chauffeurs.
Women may drive in remote areas. We have nothing in principle against women driving, but driving in traffic would mean that she would have to be in contact with men, and would have to go to the DMV to get her license. In the event of an accident, God forbid, who would be with her? She would come into contact with men.
We suffer from a problem of men harassing some women. So what would happen if women were to go out and drive by themselves, and fall into the hands of these immoral people?
I have with me a study that was published on the website of UNESCO, which is an international organization, not an Arab one. The rate of fornication in societies in which women drive is higher than in societies in which women do not drive. This is based on research. The rate of rape is also higher in societies in which women drive, and so is the rate of illegitimate children, and the rate of broken families and divorce.
Saudi journalist Daham Al-'Anzi: Where did you get your figures from?
Hussein Al-Nu'ami: From the UNESCO website.
Daham Al-'Anzi: What society are you talking about in which women don't drive?
Moderator: Please let me moderate the discussion.
Daham Al-'Anzi: This isn't true. What other societies do not permit women to drive? We are the only one.
Hussein Al-Nu'ami: That's true. All societies permit women to drive except ours. The study is based on those societies.
Daham Al-'Anzi: Let me ask you a question: If a woman commits an act of depravity what's that go to do with driving? She can do it wherever she wants.
Hussein Al-Nu'ami: It's because she leaves the house.
Daham Al-'Anzi: What he said earlier made me laugh. It really did. If this is the rhetoric of the Islamic scholars, we have a problem. He talks about women as if they are weak and needy creatures. When PM Thatcher would call the Gulf leaders, they would tremble in fear. That's an example of a woman. The Queen of Britain is another example. He is looking at the typical Saudi woman. Condoleez Rice would strike fear in the Gulf rulers with a single phone call. They would lose sleep over it.