By DR. JASER ABDULLAH AL-HARBASH - Arabnews -
A local newspaper recently wrote that turnout for the municipal elections was low and that women were absent.
Subconsciously, I interpreted this to mean, "the woman was dying." I was not far from the truth.
The woman was actually dying as far as the municipal councils were concerned, but I have no doubt that she will live and vote very soon despite all the hurdles and difficulties. The woman represents half of society, as stressed both by those who are concerned with her rights and those who want to maintain her current role, believing that any further developments will threaten the very essence of the traditional family.
In her present situation, the woman is a time bomb that will one day explode in the face of everyone. What will cause the bomb to explode is the international pattern of human rights, its power, its strong pressures and its ability to put its finger in the wounds of countries that are reluctant to give the woman her rights.
Another factor that will ignite the bomb is the fabulous increase in the scientific and moral capabilities of the Saudi women at all levels.
I bet all that if a competition were held between 10 male candidates to the municipal councils and 10 women whose candidacy was rejected, the women will make the men crawl under the table in shame. The women will definitely beat the men with the power of their logic, their strong determination and their plans and programs for the voters.
Legislation in Saudi Arabia stipulates gender equality in national rights and public interests such as education, employment, salary and retirement. These rights also include the woman's right to walk on the streets of her town or city in peace thanks to the security guaranteed by the government for the weak, the strong, the old, the young, the man and the woman.
The woman's inabilities to vote in the municipal elections, to become a member of the Shoura Council and to become a minister are just a few examples where her rights have been neglected.
It is futile to use the false excuse of our "specialized society" or pander to the sectors of society who are skeptical of female advancement as reasons for depriving women of their rights.
The most important logic used by those opposing women's rights is that society is not yet ready to accept their participation, that the woman is protected by Islamic legislation and that there are fears some deviant trends may penetrate society and corrupt women.
These excuses raise a number of questions, such as what mechanism is being used now to make society understand that the realization of social justice involves making the woman a complete partner in citizenship. Are we really applying Islamic laws to women without any oppression and intervention by men?
Has the fear of women making a serious impression achieved any ethical immunity for Saudi society and made it better than other Muslim societies? Honest answers are requested for these questions.
On the other hand, the arguments used by those who want to expedite the process of the woman obtaining all her rights is based on her achievements in society. The woman as a teacher or student is more committed to her studies and school attendance. Women are more committed to their parents and to their old relatives, nursing them, taking them to hospitals and giving them food and medicines on time.
The man has no role in taking care of the old, even if they are his own parents. He will leave them to his wife and daughters to take care of. Women also do better in exams. They by far outperform male students. They are more eloquent when they deliver sermons or lectures or get involved in discussions.
Why then do we deprive the women of voting rights in municipal elections? Why can’t a woman move in her own town without the company of a foreign driver, who may be younger and stronger than her husband, if we want to preserve her dignity and chastity?
I say once again that half of society is begging for their citizenship rights.
— Dr. Jaser Abdullah Al-Harbash is a Saudi writer based in Riyadh