A Saudi cleric who said women should not be allowed to drive because they have a "quarter" of the brainpower of men has been banned from preaching, media reported Friday.
Saad al-Hijri was suspended from all religious activity in the southern province of Asir after his comment was widely pilloried on social media.
Hijri said women - who normally are "half-brained" compared to men - "end up with only a quarter" when they go shopping and therefore must denied driving licences, according to an online video identifying him as a senior religious figure.
Saudi Arabia applies a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, which imposes a range of restrictions including a ban on women driving.
Unrelated men and women are normally segregated in Saudi Arabia, where offices and restaurants have separate sections for single men and families.
Hijri's comment sparked a storm on social media, with women's rights activists calling for his suspension, but he also had pockets of support from conservative followers.
"The ban sends a message that preaching platforms will not be used to undercut the values of equality, justice and respect for women that are inherent in Islam," an official statement said, citing a spokesman for Asir's governor.
"Anyone using preaching platforms to undermine those values will be banned in future."
Hijri later said that his comment was a "slip of the tongue", according to Sabq online newspaper.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.