What is the relation between Saudi women driving and rape?!

Media outlets should always remember that they have a responsibility towards informing the public and as such, must always strive to adhere to the highest possible standards of professionalism and journalistic ethics.

Many might find it strange that one has to repeat what is - without doubt - the very soul and essential cornerstone of our profession.

However, when reputable Arab television channels are being used as a platform for a clown of the caliber of Saudi historian Saleh al-Sadoon, one wonders whether our job is inform, stimulate minds and raise questions or simply serve as meaningless, yet somewhat entertaining, optical chewing gum for the masses.

One wonders whether our job is inform, stimulate minds and raise questions or simply serve as meaningless, yet somewhat entertaining, optical chewing gum for the masses

Faisal J. Abbas

If you haven’t heard yet, Mr. Sadoon recently made a complete fool of himself when he appeared on Rotana Khalijiah TV and defended Saudi Arabia’s much-disputed ban on women driving by saying that it was meant to protect women from rape in case their cars break down.

When the show’s female presenter pointed out that women drive in the U.S., Europe and the Arab World, he replied “they don’t care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do.”

Mr. Sadoon also added that he was concerned by the idea that some women may be raped by their male chauffeurs, but proposed a solution to that potential problem.

“The solution is to bring in female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives,” he suggested, at which point the presenter couldn’t prevent herself from laughing.

Existing preposterous views

Of course, nobody is suggesting that this Saudi historian shouldn’t have the right to say what he wishes; clearly, such preposterous views do exist among ultra-conservatives in the kingdom and there is no point hiding or being shy about this fact.

However, we can’t keep throwing stones at Western media for exclusively giving airtime and column inches to radical Muslims - given that we believe Islam shouldn’t be solely represented by the likes of hate cleric Abu Hamza just because a newspaper wants to sell more copies - only for us to make the same mistake in our own backyard.

For the record, this same TV channel did a brilliant job two years ago when they brought on a medical doctor to challenge a Saudi cleric who infamously said that driving can damage women’s ovaries

Faisal J. Abbas

Yes, the Rotana Khalijjiya TV presenter had every right to laugh, as Mr. Sadoon’s opinion certainly can’t be taken seriously.

However, it is no longer a laughing matter when tens of newspapers and TV channels around the world are now reporting this story, which may lead to more misunderstanding of our religion, culture and conflicting views within Saudi society.

No counter argument

My issue with the whole matter is that there was no counter argument. Yes, the TV host did put Mr. Sadoon under the spotlight and appeared to be ridiculing him on air, but there should have been another historian, female Shura Council member, advocate or any other party that could have demonstrated that not all Saudis, Arabs or Muslims share such views.

For the record, this same TV channel did a brilliant job two years ago when they brought on a medical doctor to challenge a Saudi cleric who infamously said that driving can damage women’s ovaries.

Obviously, it didn’t take much for the doctor to win the argument. However, as one would expect, very little has been reported about this discussion while clerics with radical points of view continue to generate headlines globally.

As for the ban on women driving, like the issue with cinema in Saudi Arabia, I don’t think a clear explanation exists as to why there is a de facto, unjustified ban on both matters. However, the debate continues within society, local media, government and the Shura Council.

Now, you may wonder what drives a supposedly educated historian or a member of the clergy to make outrageous presuppositions against women driving. The answer lies in Abdulrahman al-Rashed’s must-read column “Poor education, the mother of all problems!

__________________

Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, and is a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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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