An Interesting Attempt At Change

I spend much of my time each day teaching, writing, and preparing for the next overseas trip. My wife and I returned from a month in Scotland where I researched the Scottish independence movement. The Scots will be voting on September 18, 2014 about whether to withdraw from the United Kingdom. In less than two months, I will be in Burma doing research on that country's entrance into the 21st century as it adapts to freedom and equality for all.

I love to travel and to learn. Therefore, I am reading anything that comes before me. In addition merely to learning, I might discover something fascinating in a distant country to which I could explore in the future. If you know of something intriguing about some part of the world, let me know. I might be scheduling a trip to that area for my next adventure. In the meantime, go to my travel section of my webpage or Wolverton-Mountain on Facebook, and visit some of the places where I have been recently.

Reaching on the Internet, I came across an interesting article about the Saudi Arabia. Now, in the past couple of decades, I have been in various countries in the Middle East...some of which a couple of times. During my winter break from teaching this year, my wife and I will be in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on our way to Burma. Having been in Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, I have never been to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps, I need to start looking into that kingdom and possibly add it to my IPTSAV (Important Places To See And Visit).

If I will soon be planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, I have a problem. My expertise about that country and issues in that region is somewhat limited. For example, I am not familiar with the names of many Saudi clerics. Okay, I cannot name one...until today.

I learned that Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan (also spelled Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan), is one of the 21-member Senior Council of Scholars. One of the Senior Council's duties is to review and edit possible fatwas drawn up by the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas. This is a part of the guidelines of the Permanent Committee"

No fatwa will be issued by the Permanent Committee until the majority of its members have absolute agreement concerning it. Such, that the number (of scholars) studying each fatwa is no less than three members (of the Committee). And if there exists an equal voice (differing in opinion), then the decision of the Head (of the Committee) will take precedence.

My problem is that I am not sure, but I read somewhere that King Abdullah in 2009 had dismissed Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan is a member of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas. To be on the Permanent Committee means that you are also a member on the Senior Council. To confuse me even more, I also read that Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan was removed from the Supreme Judicial Council.

Nonetheless, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan seems to be quite concerned about Saudi women driving in Saudi Arabia and probably anywhere else. I do not know whether his statement is a fatwa, but it is very clear: "If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards."

Nevertheless, there is a campaign among some women's groups in Saudi Arabia to broaden their freedom including their right to drive cars. Some women have been very defiant about this issue and have driven without permission or a license. There seems to be a national effort by some liberal women in Saudi Arabia to drive on October 26, 2013. Some 11,000 Saudi women have their own website in which they declare: "Since there are no clear justifications for the state to ban adult, capable women from driving. We call for enabling women to have driving tests and for issuing licenses for those who pass."

This is their logo:

October 26 logo

October 26 Driving

In much of the Middle East, Muslim clerics write fatwas that are pronouncements or edicts that are to inform the public and the political leadership of the country. Whether women get the right to drive or acquire other freedoms is not for me to decide. This debate among some conservative clerics and women is not something that I can add much to the discussion. Besides, no one would listen anyway.

I am trying my utmost to get Scots in Scotland to vote for independence and dissolve their relationship with the United Kingdom. That has taken up much of my free time. However, I will be watching what occurs at the end of this week. Saudi Arabia would be an interesting place to visit in part due to this effort of some Saudi women wanting to drive.