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Remarks On Women's Ovaries Expose Saudi Cleric To Ridicule

A file image taken from a video released by Change.org shows a woman driving a car as part of a 2011 campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.
AP
A file image taken from a video released by Change.org shows a woman driving a car as part of a 2011 campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.

A Saudi cleric who warned women against driving cars by saying it could harm their ovaries is facing criticism and mockery. The comments of Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan came a month before a planned day of disobedience, with activists encouraging women to drive — a right they do not have in Saudi Arabia.

According to the news site Riyadh Connect, Luhaydan said that driving would have a "physiological impact on women and could affect her ovaries and push the pelvis higher as a result of which their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees."

The cleric's comments to a Saudi newspaper have drawn more attention to calls for Saudi women to drive on Oct. 26 in an act of protest. And the claims also drew fire on Twitter, where they inspired a hashtag, as Global Voices reports.

"What a mentality we have. People went to space and you still ban women from driving. Idiots," one Twitter user wrote.

More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition on the website , calling for the Saudi government "to provide appropriate means for women seeking the issuance of permits and licenses to apply and obtain them."

According to a blog post from the protest's organizers, access to the online petition in Saudi Arabia.

As Agence France-Presse reports, "Luhaydan, a member of the senior Ulema (Muslim scholars) Commission and former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that 'evidence from the Quran and Sunna (the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) completely prohibit (women's driving) on moral and social background.' "

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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