A controversial Saudi preacher has come under fire after his comments regarding women caused deep outrage.
The preacher, known as Abu Zaqm, claimed that women would come home late and drunk if given the liberty to drive. His comments stirred a furor online as people demanded he be punished and put on trial for his immoral allegations. He made the comments while addressing young people in the Red Sea city of Jeddah in 2011. However, the clip remerged few days ago and triggered an outcry.
While addressing youth, Abu Zaqm imagined a scenario and said, “If allowed to drive, a woman will come home late while her husband will be up, just waiting for her. She will be most probably drunk. If the husband asks her to prepare something to eat, she will argue with him and when she eventually does it, she will end up hosting him in their neighbor’s home.”
The preacher also warned people to fear liberals in the country who were pushing for more social freedoms. Following the emergence of the clip, a former judge has pledged to assist any woman willing to sue Abu Zaqm.
Nasr Al Yemeni, the former judge said, “Abu Zaqm has insulted all Saudi women and he, and people like him, should never be allowed to address public audiences. In fact, the authorities should not allow anyone to address the general public without a prior authorization. We have a serious problem to address and solve problems in our society with people like Abu Zaqm around.”
Several religious scholars have also voiced concerns about the “insulting” allegations.
Qais Al Mubarak, a former member of the Senior Scholars Council, said, “Nobody has the right to use words or expressions to insult or hurt others. People are free to express views, but without accusing or deriding others. Islam is very clear and strict about uttering words that harm others.”
He further added, “We live through critical times that require our coming together and unity, not hurting one another.”
Khalid Al Fakhri, Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) Secretary General said, “No-one has the right to qualify or judge women through inappropriate terms and to share them publicly. No-one should accept such accusations against women. A woman is a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter, and rules in Saudi Arabia guarantee their rights and their protection. No-one may incite against any woman or claim her custodianship under the claim of protecting society.”
Women in Saudi Arabia need a male guardian or a chauffeur to drive. However, recently King Salman issued a new order, allowing women “greater access to government services without the consent of a male relative.” However, the directive doesn’t end male guardianship but merely loosens some restrictions. For instance, Saudi women will have access “to a job, higher education or medical procedures, without a male guardian's permission.”