By Beatrice Thomas
Cleric said in November the ban was "to protect society from evils"
Saudi women campaigning to overturn a ban on female drivers in the kingdom have sent a letter to Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Asheikh urging him to consider their cause, it was reported.
However, it is unclear how the letter will be received after the Grand Mufti reportedly said in November that the “objective behind not allowing women to drive is to protect society from evils”.
An unnamed source quoted by the Saudi Gazette said the letter was received by the Grand Mufti’s office, though it was not known whether the letter was referred to the board.
“The committee does not automatically reject any queries submitted to them and replies to any questions that concern Shariah,” the source said.
Women are not permitted to drive in the highly conservative Gulf state, which practices an austere version of Wahabi Islam, despite there being no official law that prohibits this. In October, a number of female activists organised a nationwide day of defying the ban, with many posting video clips of themselves driving on YouTube.
Campaigners reportedly said in the letter that preventing women from driving had more disadvantages than allowing them to drive.
They said they had to depend on drivers who were strangers living in their houses and “whose real motives are not known”.
They also questioned the penalties imposed for women caught driving, including detainment and confiscation of their vehicles as well as the threat of prison and fines.
In October, the Grand Mufti warned the Gulf country not to become preoccupied with the issue of women’s right to drive, while accusing users of online social media of spreading “misleading doctrines”.
Giving a lecture at Saudi’s Taibah University, he accused those that use social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter of attempting to destabilise Saudi society. “They seek to undermine the social fabric and they are platforms for malice that promote misleading doctrines,” he was quoted as saying by a local newspaper.