Women’s Drive to Life [Video]
News of computer security consultant, Manal al-Sharif, 32, being detained for reinforcing a campaign for women to be allowed to drive have created an uproar on various social media platforms. She released a video of her driving in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia on You Tube as part of the campaign only to find herself attracting global attention to address the issue.
The campaign, known as Women2Drive aims to support the Saudi Arabian women’s rights to drive. The ban on women to drive in Saudi Arabia was imposed in 1990 with reasons supporting ideas that driving would encourage a woman to leave her house more often and the uncovering of the face as well as many others.[pullquote_left]“I believe strongly in the rights of women. The issue will require patience.” King Abdullah[/pullquote_left]
The freedom of women to express, communicate and lead in Saudi Arabia is very limited. King Abdullah, however had not denied the possibility of permitting women to drive in the future. According to the Saudi-US Relations Information Service In an interview on 6 August 2008, King Abdullah said,
“I believe strongly in the rights of women. My mother is a woman. My sister is a woman. My daughter is a woman. My wife is a woman. I believe the day will come when women will drive. In fact if you look at the areas of Saudi Arabia, the desert, and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive. The issue will require patience. In time I believe that it will be possible. I believe that patience is a virtue.” King Abdullah is reported to have made efforts in the long run to gradually increase the freedom and equality for the women in his country.
Ironically, initiators of the driving campaign admitted that for the past 21 years, there had been no progress in supporting their rights to drive.
While most sources slam the country’s prohibition on women’s involvement in various sectors, there is enough support to keep them going. Their reasons include obligations to treat women with royalty by chauffeuring them from place to place, to have control over the amount of liberation women have to curb their social activities as well as to avoid instances for men and women interaction.[pullquote_right]Manal al-Sharif’s story might have been forcefully put to an end. But she’s not the only woman with a voice in Saudi Arabia.[/pullquote_right]
Manal’s message towards achieving the women’s rights was emphasized with what she said in her video.
“This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country [learn to drive]. At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?”
Most of the time, women in Saudi Arabia are being driven around in taxis or drivers appointed by their families. Some disagree and protested against the idea as it imposes more danger for women and affects the gender segregation to an extent. Considering that most drivers are men who are strangers and foreign, the women are against the ban of driving on them.
As we would interpret this campaign as a voice for women to gain their rights to drive, there is more than just that to it.
More than it is their right to be allowed to do things men could also do, these women are also fighting for their rights to be independent, capable and empowered. As Saudi Arabia imposes legal acts to be taken on them for violation of any law, it also strips away the potential in every woman involved to be a leader for her community and to put it to good use.
The same way a man has the potential and possibility to play a part in boosting the country’s economy or to lead a community by spreading da’wah and be an important figure in the family to sustain it, every woman has too.
Oppressing women, which has become a culture over decades from Saudi Arabia to Spain and from France to Ukraine has often taken away the opportunity of goodwill in a country by disallowing women to unleash their latent talents. It is vital, however, that we distinguish a country’s culture from religion. Due to the various circumstances involving prejudice against women existing in most Islamic countries, a common stigma is that Islam encourages oppression towards women.
Verse 13 of Surah Al-Hujurat, Chapter 49 of the Qur’an reads:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
Verse 90 of Surah An-Nahl, Chapter 16 of the Qur’an reads:
“Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.”
Verily, Allah is the Most Just of all.
Therefore, it is important one understands the religion to realize how women are actually highly regarded and expected to be treated in Islam.
During the time of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) when the only vehicles were camels and horses, women rode them freely as means of transportation. In a hadith, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated, “The best women who ride camels are the women of Quraysh.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
The women of Quraysh were strong, influential women. They were renowned yet gave up their comfort and luxuries to accompany the men in the Battle of Uhud out of initiative.
Even then, they abide by their obligations as Muslim women, to safeguard their aurah and not come into contact with strange men.
Some sources state that if driving brings good to a woman and allows her to fulfill her obligatory duties as a righteous Muslim at the same time, there should be nothing forbidden in it.
Manal works in the world’s most valuable company, Saudi Aramco and is amidst the first few women to be a Certified Ethical Hacker–EC-Council CISSP–(ISC)² Certified ISO 27001 Implementer and Lead Auditor -BSI & ISO. She places herself at risk of losing a dignified career and the comfort of leading an unnoticed commoner’s life all for a try at her chance to give women a right that they deserve. She is now looked upon as an independent and courageous woman.
Manal al-Sharif’s story might have been forcefully put to an end. But she’s not the only woman with a voice in Saudi Arabia.
Watch this video of the campaign and Manal driving:
A flawed servant with a voice to and for trust. Your sister in faith, your friend in deen and your Ummah in congregation