Why this is about more than allowing women to drive


Why this is about more than allowing women to drive

These are happy and historic days in Saudi Arabia. Unexpected positive changes prevail after an overwhelming feeling of despair. For decades, every obstacle that was removed witnessed a social and political battle, from education to employment, sports and media.
However, the mother of all battles was the one fought to grant women their right to drive — with the intervention of King Salman with a decree that he signed himself. Thereby, the largest and most difficult obstacles have fallen.
The king’s decision is courageous and wise, and history will remember it for ever. Through this decision, he turned the page and announced the beginning of a new era.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is pushing development efforts and is the mastermind of the Vision 2030, also has his name engraved in history, through the change that we thought — until recently — would never occur. This feeling was dominant because of the vicious cycle we have been unable to get out of for decades.
The message we can draw is that we are witnessing a new, modern kingdom that can be placed among the civilized nations on a broader scale. The Kingdom will produce a new, active and qualified generation of both men and women working in a real economy based on real production capabilities.
Many decisions have been made and many activities have begun. They have surprised the whole Saudi society with decisions that were unforeseeable until recent times. They are collectively formulating the transition project, which is being noticed by those who can see the bigger picture.
Personally, I think that despite the importance of empowering women to drive after fierce opposition, its political and social significance is even greater.
The king’s decision sends a clear message to society that the government will embark on the path of modernization and change; he will not allow opposing people to stand in front of it.
We have waited for so long for society to change, and in particular the conservative groups that have closed the doors to society, and kept rejecting changes until it drove us to despair.

By remaining cautiously silent as intolerant voices grow louder, the moderate majority do themselves no favors.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

They object to any gesture or sign that would allow women to get out of the house, whether by driving a car, working or participating in the community.
Saudi Arabia cannot adopt an ambitious plan, such as Vision 2030, without recognizing women as partners. With the courageous decision taken by King Salman to allow women to drive, the doubting arguments will fall.
These decisions are not taken to seek popularity, or for the satisfaction of one party at the expense of another; rather the goal is to represent the highest interest of the country and society.
For years, the prevention of women from driving has not had convincing religious or social arguments, but rather a desire from a group that wants to shape society according to its will.
Those insular people, who impeded social and economic development, can no longer lead a whole nation.
In order not to generalize, those who oppose the historic decision are two classes. First, a conservative one that has maintained its traditions and wants to preserve them. Its opinion is respected, but it is not binding on all.
Then there is another politicized class that wants to lead society according to its agenda, which no longer has a place in today’s kingdom. This class is an extremist one, with bad intentions opposed to any step or project, because it wants Saudi Arabia to remain a crippled, bleak and paralyzed state until it fails.
This class should understand the message that no one will be allowed to stop the wheel from turning.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published. Twitter: @aalrashed
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