Saudi Cleric Slams Shoura Women Push to Lift Driving Ban

A prominent Saudi cleric criticized female members of the Shoura Council who said they plan to debate lifting the ban on women driving as the advisory body begins its sessions for the new cycle next week.

“No wonder. Corrupt beginnings lead to corrupt results,” Sheikh Nasser al-Omar said on Twitter. “Wait for more Westernization.” Al-Omar described the women Shoura members enthusiasm to tackle the ban on driving as “suspicious” and accused them of ignoring “major women issues” that are more pressing.

This statement by al-Omar comes after two female members of the Shoura Council told the local al-Jazirah daily that they plan to form a united front at the council to push for allowing women to drive. “God willing, we would discuss women driving,” said councilwoman Dr. Salwa al-Hazzaa, “especially that we are 30 female members in the council and we will be one voice.”

The topic of women driving has been discussed under the dome of the Shoura Council in previous years, but the council has not taken a vote to lift the ban. Newly appointed councilwoman Thurayya Al-Urayed told the newspaper that the door is always open for the public to petition the council to look into different issues. “It is likely that there would be other petitions about [women driving] brought to the council,” she said.

King Abdullah on Tuesday swore in new members of the Shoura Council, including 30 women. “Your place in the Shura Council is not as those who have been honored, but as those who have been charged with a duty, as you represent part of society,” he reportedly told the 30 new women members who make up one fifth of the fully appointed body. The King’s decision has riled the country’s conservative clerics who staged a protest outside the royal court in Riyadh last month.