All over the world, science and religion are two different things. Only in Saudi Arabia are science, studies and research faithful servants of the religious authorities. It is such a common reoccurrence that it has almost become a phenomenon. Any official opinion is always followed or preceded by a local or foreign study that proves the wisdom behind prohibiting women from driving cars, running for elections or working in malls.
When women fancied driving their cars alone without a driver, all hell broke loose. Religious scholars claimed that this demand would deflower women and lure them into a world of sin, which a foreign man driving her car all day long would save her from.
Soon enough, a foreign study conducted by the United Kingdom came as a response to the sinful activity that the Saudi women had demanded. The study showed that Saudi women are the most pampered on earth! Why is that? It is because they are neither providers nor workers. Additionally, they have a chauffeur to take them wherever they wish. The scientific study proved the claims of the religious authorities that deem driving unnecessary. Driving will transform the Saudi women from queens into the kind of women the religious authorities fear.
The same came to pass all over again when the Ministry of Labor permitted Saudi women to work in malls and as cashiers. As usual, the religious authorities opposed this decision, given that it meant women would mix with men. Protesters took to the streets in an attempt to push the ministry to renege, yet the ministry insisted on empowering women in the workforce. The ministry even noted the companies that hired women would be given incentives.
Afterwards, it was time for academic studies to pop up. These studies were conducted by universities, from which an aware, modern generation is supposed to graduate. A study entitled “Forms, provisions and judicial implementations of human trafficking” showed that women working is a sort of exploitation, which Islam forbids. The study came to the conclusion that, for women, work is humiliating and degrading. Yet the researcher turned a blind eye to the fact that in the same week a [Saudi] man in his nineties married a minor. To the researcher, this marriage did not arouse any feelings of humiliation.
Then, a French study translated by a Saudi professor indicated that 2.5 million French women are fed up with equality and wish to marry Arab men. They also expressed that they were envious of Saudi women, who lead a commitment-free life.
This study made the demand of any right a luxury and placated the enthusiasm of women in regard to the assignment of three female representatives in the Shura council, even if it was pursuant to the Islamic rules of gender separation.
How accurate are the figures mentioned in the study? Did the state put out a questionnaire? These French women probably thought that Saudi women are staying comfortable at home and enjoying a chauffeur who drives them around. Even if the study was really conducted, and even if a sample of French women were questioned — though, probably, the number was blown out of proportion to reach 2.5 million — the study is void because it did not inform thousands of French women that the Saudis are unemployed and are not permitted to leave the house. They are either under the thumb of a husband or a father who is entitled to take their money. Abused women who file for divorce are left without a house or alimony. In fact, this alleged study is an insult to the French women themselves, whose mothers and grandmothers fought for equal rights.
After that, a well-known Saudi scholar and writer called through Twitter for the harassment of female cashiers.
The call raised the ire of the Saudis on Twitter, yet the man was not held accountable for explicitly inciting harassment, nor did he apologize. He based his demands on an incident that happened 1,000 years ago between a man and his wife, who insisted on praying in the mosque. In order to prohibit her, the man disguised himself and harassed his own wife on her way to the mosque. She then came back home and never left the house again.
The scholar probably forgot that the women who are working in malls are looking for a livelihood to provide for themselves and their families. It also slipped his mind that more than 500,000 women provide for their families and are seeking an appropriate job to meet their needs. Yet that was not all.
A study conducted by the University of Umm al-Qura directly claimed that the mental capacities of women fluctuate throughout the month, given the increase in the levels of progesterone during the menstrual cycle. This hormone supposedly impedes women from performing mental activities. The two researchers advised women not to take fateful decisions during this period of time, which amounts to 13 days per month.
Translated by Al-Monitor