1. What was appropriate for women in ancient times is no longer suitable for them today. Ironically, women used to enjoy more rights in the first days of Islam than Saudi women nowadays (e.g., the issue of not allowing women to drive a car, although she used to ride a horse or camel which were not only necessary means of transportation in the old days but exposed women to a great chance of bodily harm). There is simply no rationale to treat women as second-class citizens. Why, if a women is killed, is her blood money half that of a man? Isnt the loss just as devastating to her family as the loss of a husband or father?
2. Women cannot travel without a male guardian. This is no longer justifiable in the age of the Internet and the times in which we live. Likewise, it is regrettable that a woman has no right to self-determination, since her husband may divorce her and reunite with her whenever he pleases. These practices must cease.
3. Why is a man allowed to beat his wife simply because she is a woman and may be disciplined by him? Why, if a husband is missing and his wife has no idea of his whereabouts, she must wait four years before getting a divorce from a judge? Why are men preferred and considered wiser and more competent that she?
4. We have seen those countries that are governed only by men. They have the worst conditions of all, unlike many developed countries where women share political decision-making and the countrys governance with men. Yet, we only need to look to the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Khadijah bint Khuwailid, to see the example of a very successful businesswoman, not to mention others who show us Islamic tolerance and respect.
If any of the above examples is based on the Quran, I urge you to read the story of the second Khalifah (Omar bin Al-Khatab) when he, on more than one occasion, determined what was good for his own people in spite of the fact that it was different from the literal text stated in the Holy Book. He was really a legend.
We must acknowledge that Saudi women do not have the political power to remedy this inequality on their own. Only Saudi men can do so. To honor the women in our lives and ensure that they have the same social and political rights as we do, I suggest the following:
1. We urgently need a Saudi personal status law for the protection of women and gender equality. I am fully aware that such equality, if it is ever achieved, will not happen overnight, but lets at least initiate the process of narrowing the gap between men and womens rights.
2. We also need to make a social treaty and eliminate guardianships over women and let each Saudi citizen live his or her life without interference. This country was established, and remains, based on the respect of its peoples rights just as the great founder, King Abdul Aziz, desired.
3. Since Islamic jurisprudence is underdeveloped, fatwas by those who are open-minded and progressive thinkers to remove the obstacles plaguing women are now required more than ever. Islam is a tolerant religion and the beauty of it is that it is valid for each time and place, so Muslim scholars must devote more effort to develop Islamic jurisprudence.
4. Most importantly, all of us need to support our king in his difficult mission of reform to rescue not only Saudi women, but all those who have been victimized by outmoded school of thoughts in the Muslim world.
Saudi men must step in and embrace these reforms to guarantee our country a bright and prosperous future where all citizens are valued and treated equally.
2012 Arab News