A Saudi cleric has been banned from preaching after saying that women should not be allowed to drive because they have a quarter the brain of men.
The cleric, Sheikh Saad al-Hijri, was banned for a statement that was “diminishing human value,” Saudi state television reported on Friday, citing a spokesman for the governor of Asir province.
Hijri, the Head of Fatwas in Saudi Arabia’s Asir governorate, said that women only have half a brain to begin with, but when they go out shopping, they “end up with only a quarter”. He was giving a lecture on “the evils of women driving”.
He asked if the traffic department would give a man with half a brain a licence. “It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?” he said. “If she goes to the market, she loses another half. What is left? A quarter.”
Hijri added: “We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter [of a brain].”
The speech had comments that diminished “human value”, a spokesperson for the governor of Asir said, adding that Saad Al-Hijri is now banned from preaching, leading prayers or any other religious activity.
The ban intends to limit the exploitation of preaching platforms, which some use to suggest controversial opinions and views that detract from the value of human beings, the spokesperson said. Others who use religious platforms to preach such views that do not serve the national interest would also be banned, the spokesperson added.
In May, Saudi Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah said in an interview that he had “no doubt” women would one day drive in the oil-rich country.
“Let me tell you about our leadership’s view on women,” he said. “Never mind driving a car, which is coming, no doubt…. I want her to drive society.”
He continued: “Maybe some people are afraid of change, but it is inevitable.”