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The Saudi Duality on Women

An unknown Saudi cleric goes viral following his comments on why women can’t drive.

The Saudi absolute monarchy is increasingly relying on an entrenched duality to assert the myth of its progressive role in the kingdom. The image of the reformist old king has so far rested comfortably with that of the conservative bearded cleric. This duality unfolds best in gender matters and serves to perpetuate the myth about progressive royalty against backward Wahhabi-Salafist clerics.

Yet, this myth may not hold for long despite all efforts to keep it intact. Neither the reformist king nor the conservative cleric is truly concerned with changing the status quo in fundamental ways that empower women as equal citizens. In fact, both work in ways that perpetuate masculine domination. Both the king and the clerics endeavor to free women from private patriarchy within the family only to place them under the public authority of the religious scholars and state institutions.

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