Sometime back, there was a lot of hoopla about women driving in Saudi Arabia. Things have quieted down considerably but that doesn’t mean that the debate hasn’t continued. As a female expat, I’ve been on the fence about the issue ever since I first learned about it. Let’s get one thing out of the way, the debate no matter what people say, is not a religious one. It is completely cultural, if we can call it that. There is no verse in the Qur’an and no hadeeth from the sunnah that says that women are not permitted to drive. If I am wrong, I invite anyone to show me otherwise.
When I first came to Saudi Arabia six years ago, I didn’t care much about not being able to drive even though I’ve been driving since I was 16 years old. I didn’t know anyone and there weren’t that many places to go here in Yanbu, so I wasn’t in a hurry to drive. Then there was the arcade game people refer to as “driving.” A video game is the only other place people can drive like that and get away with it. For example, you rarely see people use signals. The no U-Turn sign is apparently a challenge because no one adheres to it. Red light? I laugh at your feeble attempts to stop me. And before the light turns green, people start driving and are so impatient they beep their horns because the cars in front of them are still stopped. And don’t get me started on the lines on the road. What are these “things” and why can’t I seem to stay in between them? So I thought, why would I want to share the road with these people? A road I must also share with kids that need a step stool to get in the car and sit on a pillow so they can see over the dashboard. So, for a good while I was in no hurry to drive.
But, let’s think about what they say about women driving. There are those who say that if women drive, it’ll promote and/or facilitate immorality. That is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard. Do they think that women riding in the car with complete strangers promotes morality? How can men feel comfortable ultimately handing their women over to strange men? I am not a child and I actually had a driver propose to me. What the….? He had to be fired. Anyway, the potential for immorality is more likely in these situations than if women were driving themselves. Twice I’ve gotten in a car with a driver who was also driving others and I saw the same girl, if I can call her that, uncovered and obviously smoking. If her mother could drive her, would she be so quick to uncover and light up a cigarette? I think not. At the end of the day, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone wants to do something, no matter how many restrictions and roadblocks you put up, he/she will find a way to do it.
Considering these things, I started leaning toward wanting to drive while I’m here in KSA. I got sick of waiting, and I’m still waiting. Husbands, fathers, brothers, drivers, etc., are in complete control. We are dependent on them for simple things that don’t require a man. I always think about being home in the US and not having to ask anyone to take me anywhere, not having to wait to go somewhere. I get in the car and go. I don’t want to have to beg to go get groceries. I don’t want to beg to have someone take me to a friend’s. And I shouldn’t have to. I want to drive. Am I scared of the idea? Absolutely! With all the car accidents and some sick men out there, it is frightening. But how long can this last? At some point, things have to change. That’s just life. I hope to see the day when women can safely drive in Saudi Arabia with confidence.
What do you think?