Bumper stickers in Saudi Arabia have taken a distinctly political turn as men opposed to allowing women to drive have taken to putting their views on their cars in the face of mounting concern the ban may be lifted.
A report in Britain’s the Daily Telegraph Wednesday quoted an anonymous government official as saying the government had decided to lift its ban on women drivers and would issue a decree by the end of the year.
For those opposed to lifting the ban, bumper stickers have become a popular outlet for expressing their displeasure, the Saudi newspaper Shams reported Sunday.
"There has been a decision to move on this by the Royal Court because it is recognized that if girls have been in schools since the 1960s, they have a capability to function behind the wheel when they grow up," a government official told The Daily Telegraph. "We will make an announcement soon."
Women activists in the kingdom have brought the issue to the limelight in recent years by breaking the driving ban and risking arrest.
The sticker, widely displayed by men opposed to giving women the right to drive, has a picture of a woman and steering wheel inside a prohibitory traffic sign.
"When I put this sticker on my car, I am expressing my opinion through it," Abdullah al-Harbi, who put the bumper sticker on his car, told the paper. "I believe it is a peaceful and civilized way of self-expression."
Mohamed Z. disagreed. Although he is also opposed women driving, he argued that bumper stickers are not a civilized way of expressing one's opinion and are simply used to attract the attention.
"Many youth use bumper stickers to propagate wrong things," he was quoted as saying. "And unfortunately, this happens a lot."
Women in Saudi Arabia are prohibited from driving by law. The driving ban dates back to its establishment as a state in 1932. Reasons cited for the ban are usually related to mingling of unmarried women and men, which is prohibited in the conservative kingdom.
Scholars and Religious Police officials argue that allowing women to drive would lead to moral decay by make dating easier and encourage youth to flirt with or chase women drivers.
Critics also defend the bad based on the safety of women and their ability to handle certain difficult situations like car breakdowns, accidents, or driving in remote areas. Some also fear that if women drive, they will start changing their dress code since the existing one, a cloak and a face veil, might not be practical behind the wheel.
"When it (lifting the ban) was first raised, the extremists were really mad," Mohammad al-Zulfa, a reformist member of the Saudi consultative Shura Council, told the Telegraph. "Now they just complain. It is diminishing into a form of consent."