We have yet another example of the twisted view of women in the Saudi Kingdom and the equally twisted view of what appears to pass for an intellectual in Saudi Arabia. Saudi historian Saleh Al-Saadoon told the Saudi news show Rotana Khalijiyya that the reason women in the West drive is that they “don’t care if they are raped on the roadside.” It was particularly offensive from a Saudi academic in a country long accused of having a culture that excuses rape.
When I first saw this interview, I seriously considered the possibility that this was a hilarious spoof on Saudi laws and logic. Then I read news accounts that said that Al-Saadoon was actually serious. It is funny until you consider that a whole nation of women are being kept from equal rights under this type of pseudo-logic.
The statement of Al-Saadoon came in explaining the difference is between women riding camels and driving cars.
During an interview on the Saudi news show Rotana Khalijiyya in January, historian Saleh Al-Saadoon explained that there was a difference between riding camels and driving cars: “If a woman drives from one city to another and her car breaks down, what will become of her?” This led to the obvious observation from the female interviewer: “Well, women drive in America, in Europe, and in the Arab world.”
Al-Saadoon explained that the reason is equally obvious: “They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do.”
This led the interviewer to say, “Hold on. Who told you they don’t care about getting raped on the roadside?”
Al-Saadoon explained that “It’s not a big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale. In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.” Oh that explains it.
The next question is a bit confusing but the answer is consistent and equally absurd:
Host: “What is rape if not a blow to the morale of a woman? That goes deeper than the social damage.”
Al-Saadoon: “But in our case it affects the family.”
Host: “What, society and the family are more important than the woman’s morale?”
Al-Saadoon after saying that morale was only “part of the problem”: “Saudi women are driven around by their husbands, sons and brothers. Everybody is at their service. They are like queens. A queen without a chauffeur has the honor of being driven around by her husband, brother, son and nephews. They are at the ready when she gestures with her hands.”
Of course, as we have been discussing, many women would like to forego Al-Saadoon’s royal treatment for a modicum of equal rights.
The host then tried again to return Al-Saadoon to a modicum of sanity: “You are afraid that a woman might be raped by the roadside by soldiers, but you are not afraid that she might be raped by her chauffeur?” the host pointed out.
Al-Saadoon responded: “Of course, I am. There is a solution but the government officials and clerics refuse to hear of it. The solution is to bring female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives.”
This is when the host appears to cover her mouth in laughter for good reason. Rather than recognizing equal rights, Al-Saadoon believes it is easier to import “foreign chauffeurs” to prevent Saudi women from being raped by men serving as their own drivers.
As you might imagine, Al-Saadoon was not deterred by the laughter, which I expect he is used to:
Al-Saadon: “Why not? Are you with me on this? There might be some considerable opposition to this, but…”
Host: “Female foreign chauffeurs? Seriously?”
Yes, he is serious. That is precisely the problem.
Here is the video: