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Fri 22 Sep 2017 07:24 PM

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Saudi cleric suspended for calling women 'quarter brained'

Saad al-Hijri banned from all religious activity in the southern province of Asir after his comments

 Saudi cleric suspended for calling women 'quarter brained'

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.