When Slaves Choose Their Slavery

Some slaves prefer slavery: “A prominent Saudi female activist,” Emirates 24/7 reported recently, has come out against the decision by Saudi Arabia to lift its ban on women driving cars.

Rawdah Al-Yousif complained that campaigns to give women the right to drive ,

continue despite the clear response by the rulers of this country that any decision to allow women to drive cars is up to the community not to just 3000 people or to some articles in newspapers or online. I hope there will be no decision to allow women to drive at this stage because we have first to respect the wish of the people and the society…Women are also not ready yet to bear their responsibility and leave their homes at a time when news of blackmail against the women are widespread.

Ah, yes. Women are not yet ready to bear their responsibility, just as we heard in the antebellum South that black Americans were not yet ready to bear the responsibilities of freedom, or in the Jim Crow South that they were not yet ready to bear the full responsibilities of citizenship. This is a common argument that oppressors make to justify oppression; it is unusual to hear it offered by one of the oppressed themselves.

Yet Rawdah Al-Yousif is the prime mover behind a recent campaign in Saudi Arabia called “My Guardian Knows What’s Best For Me.” This involved, according to Emirates 24/7, “sending letters to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in which women confirmed their full support for an Islamic approach in administering the Kingdom.” Al Yousif expressed her “dismay at the efforts of some who have liberal demands that do not comply with Islamic law (Shariah) or with the Kingdom’s traditions and customs” and railed against what she characterized as “ignorant and vexatious demands” to abolish the guardianship system.