MIDDLE EAST

Women’s license to drive: End of an era, beginning of another

After the second Gulf war, the activities of the al-Sahawy trend reached its peak. Three factions belonging to the extremist stream mobilized people in Buraydah, Riyadh and Jeddah. They confronted seculars and opposed the presence of foreign forces.

In November 1990, some women, most of whom were highly educated, publicly demanded that women be allowed to drive cars. Figures who propagated the Sururist rhetoric in South Buraydah published a list identifying these women. The list included the names of more than 47 women and their husbands along with a category entitled “sect” as if they wanted to describe the husband as a “communist” or a “secular.”

Also read: Women driving license a victory for Saudi society

In the winter of 2003, one of the men who wrote the list and helped publish it wrote an article including confessions from that phase. He spoke how leaflets were distributed. He concluded his piece by saying: “I ask God to forgive me for committing this felony.”

It was a battle with several faces, wings and parties and it was further fueled by the decisive political circumstances in the region as there are more than half a million foreign soldiers in the Gulf and more than 1,000 fighter jets. This atmosphere was exploited to embarrass the government, impose certain designs and mobilize people to take to the street.

The modernization process is consistent with Saudi cultural and religious approaches and are part of the efforts to establish a new social reality

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

A milestone in history

History will mark that last Tuesday was a milestone in Saudi Arabia’s history – not just because it was announced that women will be allowed to drive but also given the message the royal order to people in the kingdom and to the world.

There is an increasing impression in the world that Saudi Arabia has embarked on a new phase to modernize based on the society’s activity and needs. We are entering a modern phase par excellence in order to strengthen an institutional civil state that controls the general situation and protects it from unrest and interferences.

The royal order also conveys to the world that Saudi Arabia seeks to build a strong economy through Vision 2030 and to establish a partnership with the world on the basis of values, culture and positive influence by civilizations.

This modernization process is consistent with the Saudis’ cultural and religious approaches and are part of the efforts to establish a new social reality where politicians can change the society’s ideas and convictions.

During the past few days, some extremist voices and media outlets, who benefit from Qatar, tried to lecture the Saudis and direct them on how to manage their country’s affairs. They brought up UAE ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba’s statements about secularism.

When the country celebrated national day, they acted like they have more Islamic morals than us – like it’s some form of bid. These advices and orders come from people who do not have any moral or religious background to teach a huge and influential country like Saudi Arabia how to hold celebrations and manage its affairs!

Extremist rhetoric

It is noteworthy that the extremist rhetoric, which spread in the Gulf, has become limited to Qatar that supports terrorism and it’s no longer relevant to the general Gulf society.

This is due to the major changes which were welcomed by religious institution, preachers and Saudi society. When the royal order was issued lifting the ban on women driving, we heard some boring complaints from Qatar via their trivial media platforms.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has since last April been working to achieve social change that enhances welfare and makes entertainment part of the Saudi people’s daily lives.

Also read: How Saudi women’s license to drive has dealt a major blow to radicals

An extremist rhetoric dominated for more than 30 years in our society affecting two generations, if not more, and leading to anxiety due to continuous preaching about “preparing to depart.”

Speaking about change, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman once said: “I’m young. Seventy percent of our citizens are young. We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now. We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post-’79 era.”

It is a brave change. It is the greatest change in the history of societies led by an enlightened ruler!

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

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Last Update: Friday, 29 September 2017 KSA 11:22 - GMT 08:22
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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