Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree yesterday, allowing women to finally be able to drive. My mother worked as an OB/GYN in Saudi Arabia in the 1970’s. She was a practicing physician who had to have a mahram (a male chaperone from immediate family or husband) and could not drive to work. This made it very difficult for my father and my mother, since he would have to travel for his work. She tells me stories of how she would be denied transportation by taxi drivers who feared being seen with a woman who was not related to them.
One story stands out in my mind. She had an emergency call from the hospital and they needed her to come to attend one of her patients immediately. My father was traveling to another city and was not present. She called another female friend to come with her so she would not go alone. The taxi driver would not even allow them to explain themselves. He drove away in a hurry. She then called the hospital and told them they would need to send transportation for her. They refused. No one wanted to break the law that would land them immediately into jail for several violations (picking up an unrelated woman, driving her without her mahram, not reporting this to the authorities, etc).
Women in the United States go blissfully about their business daily. We take for granted many civil liberties that are offered to us without a second thought to other women who have to live by antiquated laws. I wrote another blog on women’s identity in Islam here Women have never been able to drive in the country because it was ruled by Muslim clerics that the additional freedom would impede restrictions on them (and yes, one cleric incorrectly hypothesized that driving affects women’s ovaries and pelvis).
While we can celebrate the fact that Saudi Arabia has finally made it to the 21st century, there are many other limitations placed on women. Driving is just the first (small) step. There are strict guardianship laws that are dictated by Islamic Law. Women there still need men’s permission to have medical procedures done and even see a physician! Where is the outrage at that?
Even in the United Kingdom, there are Muslim clerics who call for restrictions on women. There is an article here by the UK Telegraph that shares how a ruling went out that forbids British Muslim women to go more than 48 miles radius without a male family chaperone. All of this reminds me to be thankful of the freedoms we have here in America. We have freedom to drive, to seek medical attention, to go to school and to work. We have freedom to practice religion and to worship.
May we THANK men and women who have fought for our nation and may we THANK GOD for allowing us to live here!
~But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!
2 Corinthians 3:16-17