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Saudi suspends cleric who claimed women have ‘a quarter of a brain’

The preacher made the statement in a speech supporting the driving ban on women.

A cleric has been banned from religious activities in Saudi Arabia after claiming women’s brains are just 25 per cent the size of their male counterparts.

Sheikh Saad Al Hijri, who is head of fatwas in the kingdom’s Assir governorate, was suspended from preaching and leading prayers after making the comments in a lecture entitled “the evils of women driving”.

The cleric told the audience that shopping causes a female brain to further shrink, and therefore it would be dangerous for women to get behind the wheel.

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“Would [the traffic department give a man with half a brain] a licence or not? It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?” Al Hijri said, according to The Guardian.

“If she goes to the market she loses another half. What is left? A quarter… We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter.”

Saad al-Hijri

The cleric’s comments created vast debate on social media, with the hashtag “Al Hijri says women have a quarter of a brain” trending on Twitter last week.

Al Hijri’s subsequent ban for comments that “diminished human value” was imposed by the province’s governor on Thursday.

The suspension was handed down to “limit the exploitation of preaching platforms to suggest opinions and views that cause controversy in society and detract from the value of human beings”, an Assir spokesman told the BBC.

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Currently, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women cannot drive, although several prominent local figures—such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal—have spoken out in favour of overturning the rule.

The newly appointed Saudi ambassador to the US also briefly touched on the issue in an interview earlier this year.

When the subject was raised with Prince Khaled bin Salman by the Washington Post, the royal didn’t confirm if the ban would be relaxed but said: “Our leadership realises that women are important to our future and to moving our economy forward”.

 Prince Khaled bin Salman 

“We can’t move forward without half of our population,” he added.

Change does already appear to be afoot as part of Vision 2030, a post-oil economy plan under which the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.

As part of the plan, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development has launched a project to allow women to work from home, to alleviate childcare and transportation issues.

We’ll keep you posted with any future changes…

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Image: Getty, Today’s News/YouTube screen grab

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