Much more than just allowing women to drive

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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These are happy and historic days in Saudi Arabia. There have been several positive changes, which would have never crossed our mind after despair took over us. Social and political battles over education, employment, sports and the media erupted every time an obstacle was removed.

The mother of all battles was that of granting women their right to drive cars. King Salman’s intervention and issuance of the decree allowing them to drive marks the end of the most difficult and biggest obstacle.

The king’s decision is brave and wise. History will remember him for a long time as the man who ended an era and launched a new one. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who is in charge of development in the kingdom – will also be remembered.

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

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the engineer of the “vision” of the new state and its future. Ever since the vision was announced, decisions have been made one after the other. We thought they will never be made due to the vicious circle which we were incapable of exiting for decades.

The message concluded here is that we are before a new modern kingdom that is finding its status among civilized nations by adopting more welcoming standards that include everyone and that is building a new and competent generation which is efficient with its men and women amid the development of a real economy.

Many decisions and activities, which came as a surprise to the Saudi society, have looked almost impossible until recently. They actually reflect the transition plan and those who look at the entire picture can see that.

Allowing women to drive cars after a fierce opposition is of great significance but its political and social meaning is much bigger

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Political and social meaning

Allowing women to drive cars after a fierce opposition is of great significance but I think its political and social meaning is much bigger than that. The king’s decision is a clear message to the society stipulating that the government is walking the path of change and modernization which will not allow those objecting to obstruct it.

Years have been wasted while waiting for the society to change as conservative elements have shut its doors to most things until hopelessness took over us. They objected to any initiative or any hint to allow women to go out or drive cars or work or participate in social life.

Saudi Arabia cannot adopt an ambitious plan like Vision 2030 without acknowledging women as partners in it. The skeptics’ excuses fell with the king’s brave decision to allow women to drive. The aim of this decision is not popularity or pleasing one party at the expense of another. The aim is to serve the country’s and society’s higher interests.

Also read: Senior cleric says women driving does not contradict Quran, Sunnah

The driving ban has never had convincing social or religious justifications for years. It rather conveyed the desire of a category that wants the society to be according to its wishes. Those isolated men who obstructed social and economic development can no longer lead an entire nation.

In order to not generalize, let’s note that those objecting to the historic decision belong to two categories: a conservative category whose ideas are based on traditions it wants to maintain– we respect this opinion but it does not bind everyone – and a politicized category that wants to lead the society according to its agenda.

This latter category no longer has a place in the kingdom as it’s an extremist category with ill intentions. It opposes every move and project because it wants Saudi Arabia to remain a disabled, depressed and obstructed state so it fails.

This category better understand the message that no one will allow it to stop the wheel.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.