In the United States, if you get a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) you can go to jail because you endangered yourself and other drivers. In Saudi Arabia, if you a get DWF (Driving While Female) you will go to prison, too, because… well, just because.
A Saudi cleric, explaining why a woman in that country was recently arrested for driving a car, unintentionally condemns his whole society with his flawed logic. He says that she couldn’t drive without exposing her face and her hands, therefore she was behaving in an unvirtuous fashion. He goes on to say that women cannot be allowed to drive because they would likely be unchaperoned (by a man). In saying these things, this remnant of the Dark Ages presumes that, without strict enforcement of moral laws, Saudi society would corrupt and all women would become harlots, as if none of the morals or values taught to Saudi children by their parents would have any influence at all on their behavior as adults. (Note that the Saudi men who become aroused by females operating a motor vehicle retain their purity and their freedom). In the same breath, the cleric condemns all Western societies as corrupt and permissive because they don’t impose similar restrictions on women.
Islamic law appears to remove any responsibility from the individual for moderating their own behavior by imposing rigidly enforced codes and draconian punishments for even the most innocent activity. To me, that is the perfect definition of a corrupt society. When people are so easily enticed by temptations that they cannot risk being exposed to them without severe repercussions, then they have no character or moral fiber of their own. The “collective righteousness” this Saudi cleric describes is meaningless, because it is nothing more than a manifestation of the state’s strict control. George Orwell investigated this in his book “1984”. The moral foundation of any society is based upon what the individual citizen chooses to do, not what the government dictates.
The Saudis and other Mideast countries who oppress women are inherently weak, corrupt societies that resort to fear and violence to extort “moral” behavior from their people. When I listened to this cleric ramble on about how pure and blessed the Kingdom is because women aren’t allowed to show their hands or their face in public, I could only laugh. Not because what he was saying was funny, but because it was such outrageously contorted logic. A person in a free society who chooses of their own volition to live a righteous life, despite being exposed to daily temptations, is of far stronger character than the person who only does the right thing because she’s afraid she’ll get caught and be punished. That is counterfeit morality. A person who has never been confronted by temptation and never had to overcome it, can make no claim to a higher morality. This so-called religious leader hasn’t figured out that fundamental precept. Either that, or he just despises women and is clinging to his primitive dogma in order to preserve their oppression in his culture.
It is astonishingly ironic that the same society which permits a father to give his 8-year-old daughter away to a middle-aged man in payment for a debt actually believes it is immoral for a grown women to drive a car.