Many people who have not been to Saudi Arabia or no little about the country focus on the life and traditions of the Saudi woman such as how she can’t drive without realizing this is part of the law in the Kingdom. NO woman is legally able to drive within the Kingdom.
There is also a focus on the dress of the Saudi woman. When she is out publicly she likely chooses to wear an abaya, cover her hair and in some cases may wear a niqab so that only her eyes are visible. Her way of dress is part of the tradition and heritage in which she was raised. However, outside of public eyes and within the privacy of her home, she may dress how she chooses. When the Saudi woman is among her family and friends she will wear the fashions and style of her choice.
Yet, the Saudi woman and women who are married to Saudis will have a mahrem. The mahrem is the male guardian whose responsibility is to protect and watch over the female relatives. His decisions will determine the amount of freedom a woman will have such as working, education, and travel as examples.
There have also been many Fatwa’s (rulings) which among the issues include ‘guidance’ on abilities and rights of women. In 2010 one well known Sheik announced a fatwa banning women from being online without a male chaperone at her side.
“Women are similar to other beings, yet they are weak and emotional, which drags them towards what is against God’s rule … The internet is full with tempting things that will be very hard for the weak woman to avoid … Thus an escort who is aware of her weak psyche, which is prone to sex and emotion, is to accompany her while being online,” said Sheikh Saad El-Ghamdi in 2010.
While specific numbers may not be available, it is known that Saudi women are prolific online. They are well-known bloggers. They have twitter accounts. They are active in email. They use Facebook and other social media. American Bedu’s blogroll features some excellent blogs maintained by Saudi women.
In my personal view, it is not the Saudi woman who needs to have her online activities monitored. Sheikh Mohamed El-Aly, professor of Islamic law at Imam Mohamed Ben Saud University to Al-Youm agrees. In a recent interview with Ahram online he states that internet usage should be equal for both men and women.
American Bedu encourages readers to view the article and share their perspectives. Do you think online activities of Saudi women should be monitored based on the premise that they may have led sheltered lives? Should the online activities of Saudi men be monitored? Is monitoring necessary at all? And last but not least, what impact has the internet and social media had on Saudi society?