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Social media and Saudi women driving

July 1, 2011

Rushdi Siddiqui wrote an excellent opinion this week about Saudi women drivers, the contradictions of the Qur’an that Saudis have used to legitimate unequal gender rights and social media.

Siddiqui argues that social media has given women a voice. That alone is a marked change in Saudi Arabia, he contends. So if that can change, why not the laws governing who gets to drive?

It’s plausible that social media alone allowed Saudi women to put themselves in the literal and proverbial driver’s seat in their fight for driving rights. Social media has given them a way to organize and protest like they never could before, as Twitter and Facebook exist in the physical world only if someone is looking for it. What I mean by that is passersby can see picketers on the street, but you have to really be looking for something on Twitter or Facebook. That has allowed Saudi women to operate in the shadows, more or less.

I encourage you to read the entire thing. From altmuslim.com:

The womens’ driving movement in Saudi Arabia has been articulated as violating the defined traditional roles of women, a slippery slope in the adoption of western cultural values that will result in increased road accidents, public mixing of the sexes with adverse consequences, and so on. There have even been comments by local religious conservative scholars or imams that a woman driving is a violation of Shariah rules.

The stated argument of sexual context could be applicable to anything, from instant messaging to mobile phones. One wonders what is on the mind of person making such statements. In the eyes of some people, global connectivity, via social media, is the beginning of the end of segregation of the sexes. In their eyes, the ability to legislate, regulate and enforce morality has been forever undermined to the detriment of society by social media.
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Women have been driving in many Muslim countries, from Turkey to Pakistan to Egypt to Malaysia, and, interestingly, women have been driving in the rural areas in Saudi Arabia without incident. Is the real issue, if women are officially allowed to drive in the Kingdom, a slippery slope of women gaining more rights and, conversely, men losing their dominance over women?

Is that a bad thing? Will it encourage qualified women to join the work force and contribute to the economy? Won’t allowing women with licenses to drive actually encourage more white collar executives to bring their entire families to the country?

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