The Imam Arabs are not the only ones in forbidding women to drive a car. Some Jews “colleagues” make the same disputable request in the UK. In the last days, a strong debate aroused in London, where a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews has explicitly forbidden women to drive. Practically, the rabbis have imposed on them the same prohibition in force in Saudi Arabia – the birthplace of Wahhabism, which is the strictest interpretation of Sunni Islam.
As reported in the Times, after the news, the Education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has launched an inquiry into the sect Belz (part of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Hasidic tendency, hailing from the Ukrainian city with the same name), located in Stamford Hill, north London. Leaders of the sect have said children who are driven to school by their mothers will be turned away at the school gates. They have explained that women who drive go against “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp”. The secretary for Education, who is also minister for Women and Equalities, has said: “This is completely unacceptable in our modern Britain. If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people, they are violating the school norms of independence.”
Throwing a glance at some kilometres further to the south, in Arabia the same issue is being debated. There, Saudi women for years have been struggling to get the right to drive: they have been trying to let their voices be heard by public campaigns, risking their own lives, and breaking the law. But nothing seems to have changed. The woman who decides to drive a car, risks severe penalties, from flogging to detention. Why? According to the historian Al-Saadoon, if the car were to break, a single woman on the roadside would have great chances to be raped. The iconic London and Arab cases show that radicalism and intransigence can often coincide, even when they represent two diametrically opposed positions.
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo