2001: Driver’s Education on a warm spring day. Despite years of riding in cars, I felt the tremors of Western decadence between my legs once I sat behind the wheel. My hijab felt a little looser, and I was overwhelmed with so many haraam thoughts that I could not hear a word that my driving instructor was saying. My brush with life behind the wheel showed me a darker element to driving. Professor Kamal Al-Subhi recently warned against lifting the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, as women driving directly correlates with the moral decline of society. I would have to agree with him; the moment that the key to the car rested in my own hand, I did not think of errands or going to school, but of unlocking a world of nightclubs, sin, in a station wagon that was most certainly steered by the devil. It made me want to wear “a pair of pants so tight that [my] innermost organs were discernible.”** But thanks to Al-Subhi, I resolve to never drive again.
First and foremost, what Al-Subhi reiterates is something that I accept to be a reality about being a Muslim woman: my self-worth is directly proportional to my chastity, and we must never forget this. Clearly, this is our primary goal when we discuss Muslim women: keeping them pristine. I am not fooled when I read about the work of female activists in Saudi Arabia that want to drive. It is not about convenience or autonomy, or, I don’t know, trying to get to work on time. It is really about a Hollywood induced vision of broken hymens and debauchery in the backseat of cars, which, by the way, would be a logistical nightmare if women could drive. Let us forget the other roles that women play in Islam; after all, what matters most is keeping women on the straight and narrow paths to avoid exciting them, as even the slightest taste of independence turns them into filthy-minded beings.
But in blaming the decline of society on women driving, Al-Subhi missed the real culprit: unchaperoned women. The problem is not the actual act of driving, but perhaps the fact that a woman is left in a space without a guardian. We cannot trust women with their urges, as even a speed bump could create worrisome scenarios. After all, a car can even become a portable whorehouse if it goes unsupervised. In order to avoid temptation and protect their honour, it would be wise for Al-Subhi to create Pocket Mahrams, which would be a collectible and fun way to teach women the importance of never leaving home without their small piece of patriarchy.
And as a final note: I would encourage Al-Subhi to push for heightened web censorship in Saudi Arabia. I was alarmed to read about such a learned scholar knowing what kind of a gesture would indicate availability. I presume that he gained this knowledge in research and good faith to protect the innocent and pure minds of Saudi women. However, I worry that women may be able to accidentally pollute their minds and perhaps expedite moral decline by being influenced by such rude gestures. Perhaps gender-based censorship would be most pertinent, after all, men must know what to keep out of the minds of women. Either way, I am glad that Al-Subhi is taking a stand and showing us the real value of women – and most importantly, keeping me from ever driving again.
** This part? Not making it up. It’s a direct quote from Al-Subhi himself.