Saudi Arabia announced that women will finally be allowed to drive, and it is very welcome news. The decision of Saudi Arabia is a great and well-calculated step toward modernity.
The decision which reflects the desire of the leading powers in Saudi Arabia and the spirit of the new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman will have great implications and impact not only in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) but also on the whole Muslim world as the KSA has a unique position in the hearts and minds of most Muslims.
First of all, it is fair to applaud the leaders of the KSA for taking such courageous decision as they took the risk of possible backlash from the ultraconservative individuals and from the radical scholars who are not willing to change.
The real power in the Saudi decision is in the fact that it represents a change of "direction." For example, it could be easier for a progressive country like Tunisia to take a decision to support women's rights than for the KSA to take a similar decision, as in the former the decision is in the same direction of the country that already existed in the last few decades while in the latter situation is in the opposite direction and thus may stir more resistance within the society.
The overwhelming support for the Saudi decision was evident immediately on Twitter in KSA and it reflected the huge power of support to the decision within the kingdom. Thanks to the leaders of the KSA and to the internet a needed change is finally happening.
One of the most important implications of the Saudi decision to allow women to drive is that it opened the opportunity for changing the ways of understanding the religion from "Absolutism" to "Relativism."
In other words, the very same thing that was unacceptable in religious terms or “Haram” can become acceptable “Halal” in a different situation and under different circumstances.
This — by itself — can open the gate for new and different way of interpretation for other religious issues as well to put an end to the anachronistic, old fashioned, and radical interpretations and replace it with modern peaceful understandings. The latter is probably the most difficult challenge to Saudi Arabia in the next stage. However, I have strong confidence that the current leadership of the KSA — who have tremendous support among the Saudi citizens — will be able to even take more forward and progressive steps to modernize the country.
The progressive changes that happened in the KSA since King Salman took power on Jan. 22, 2015, are probably more significant than the previous changes in the kingdom toward the same cause over the last several decades. Some of these changes were seriously needed to make any progressive change possible. These include withdrawing the police support from the religious authorities who used to force people on praying and attack women physically if they do not wear the complete cover. This step has been one of — if not “the” — most fundamental step to allow for modernity of the country.
It might be difficult that the KSA use the expression secularism (as unfortunately this may allow the radicals clerics to use it against the country) and they will likely try to find a religious justification or Fatwa to support the progress toward modernity.
In belief, the decision of Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive is a great step and will certainly have a positive impact on changing the Muslim world to the better.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.
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