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