Today in Arab News there was an article about a talk given on women’s Rights by Al Jowhara Al Angari, vice chairman of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) on Saturday night at a meeting organized by the Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). In it she mentioned that most Saudi women do not know that once they are 45 years old and older they do not need their male guardian’s permission travel. This is news to me. I know my mother had gone on several trips abroad and each time the officials would ask her for her permission slip signed by my father. She even went to Jordan with my older brother and they still asked her to show her permission slip. But she has never taken the risk of going all the way to the airport without the slip. If it wasn’t required of her, shouldn’t the officials checking her passport have told her? Or when my father went to get it done and stamped, wouldn’t they have informed him that there was no need for it since she is above the age limit?
And then Al Angari spoke about how women do not ask for their rights out of ignorance. This might be true for the idealistic young but I know for a fact that many women here do NOT want their rights for themselves nor do they want any other woman to have them. That is because they are in their comfort zone, especially the fanatic religion students. These latter are continuously exposed to stories and evidence from the Quran that inform them of their rights but they don’t want them. Their excuse is “prevention of sin” or when they are hard-pressed they’ll say “these times are different from when the prophet (PBUH) lived”. And to this I always reply with the hadeeth* that Islam as it was revealed to the prophet is good for all time and all places. There is also an Islamic principle that states that all things should be considered permissible in Islam unless clearly prohibited by Allah in the holy Quran or hadeeth. And I go on to ask them if they believe that their judgment about the times is better than Allah’s. This ultimately shuts them up and I have yet to meet a mutawa who can still carry an argument after that point.
Back to Saudi women comfort zone. Why would they ask for rights when that would mean taking on responsibility. They don’t want rights that would take away their current excuses for not being educated and independent and turn them obsolete. It will take away their convenient excuse for not studying, getting a job or even getting milk from the nearest grocer.
*Hadeeth: the Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) sayings and acts