EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited lifting of a ban on women’s driving, widely viewed as a symbol of Saudi misogyny, will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition. It also distracts attention from international criticism of the kingdom’s war in Yemen and charges by human rights groups, as well as some Muslim leaders, that the kingdom fosters sectarianism and prejudice against non-Muslims.
If last week’s national day celebrations, during which women were for the first time allowed to enter a stadium, is anything to go by, opposition to the lifting of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women’s driving is likely to be limited to protests on social media.
To be sure, thousands welcomed both moves. Moreover, Saudi media reported that senior Islamic scholars who have opposed expanding women’s rights for decades, some of whom have criticized Prince Mohammed’s effort to expand entertainment opportunities in the kingdom, said they saw no religious objection to women’s driving.
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