Manal Al Sharif on TED

Very unusual for TED talks, Manal Al Sharif gets multiple standing ovations during her beautiful and eloquent TED Talk.

Manal Al Sharif has inspired people, not only in Saudi Arabia, but over the entire world, projecting a positive image of Saudi women, and Saudi people.



76 Responses

  1. A wonderful video, thanks for sharing.

    On a side note, does anyone know if she was driving in the more rural areas or more isolated roads, or if she actually drove through a city area? If she was driving around on some of the crazier roads, my respect for her takes on an additional level. In a few years, I will have had my license for a decade, and there is no way I will be caught dead trying to take the wheel on roads like that. I’m all for women driving in KSA, but I will bow out of the opportunity until the streets undergo some serious changes.

  2. She drove on city streets. It’s not a big deal for women to drive in rural areas. They already do.

    If you are an experienced driver- why on earth would you be a passenger until the streets are safer? How are you safer as a passenger of most of the drivers on the road? I hear this a lot from women. Yet we can die more easily as passengers of reckless drivers- as can our children.

  3. Ah, and I just realized it’s June 17 and we were all supposed to go drive again and I forgot.

  4. I understand, it is a major problem that women are expected to entrust their lives and their families’ into the hands of less experienced and less careful strangers, but in my particular case, parallel parking on a suburban roads gets me anxious. My husband, even more experienced than I am, dreads driving in KSA, as well, and often comes back with some near-death experience to tell me about. I’m pretty certain I’m the greater of two evils when matched with the average driver in this situation, unless they’re doing something purposefully dangerous and absurd. I am liable to seize up or freak out if something goes wrong.

    Besides which, you also have to be an excellent defensive driver on roads like these, so I would not feel that much better taking control just because I won’t get careless or pull outrageous stunts. Driving through these roads are for braver women than I.

  5. Oh, I forgot, thank you for the information.

  6. I would be terrified to drive here. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m probably a better driver than most of the men here on the roads- and I would be safer with me driving. Any sensible person dreads driving here and is scared- but I imagine you are better than the average driver here. I hope to God you are. Do you make left turns from the far right lane? Do you drive and high speed and weave as though you’re driving in a video game? I am not trying to talk you into anything. Just pointing out that while driving here would be very dangerous and unpleasant- you’re almost certainly a safer bet than the majority on the roads- though I’m sure there’s a learning curve. But so is there for the guys brought in that have never driven before and are driving car loads of kids around without restraints.

  7. Manal is a true hero. I loved the video.

  8. Sandy,

    I know what you mean, the idiotic driving habits horrify me to no end (and yes, you mentioned the kids in the car–good God, the ostensible lack of concern for basic safety procedures with children baffles me) and I try to do what I can to avoid getting in the car with any unsafe driver in any country, and am not shy about complaining if they do something stupid.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I am one of those people who will get panicky and make a bunch of mistakes under pressure like that. So things might go good and well for me for a time, but if I have to react quickly, or if I get flustered and confused by a traffic situation, I do stupid things in roads much safer and clearer. Hopefully someday I will either learn better or the driving situation will fix itself, but right now I’m just going to admire the women who are ready and willing to try their hand at it. I am definitely not ready!

  9. TE, I get what you mean. I am the kind of driver whose vocabulary becomes less refined when a road rage gets the better of me. And I do panic sometimes so I would gladly let my husband chauffeur me around Jeddah. He hates driving in his own city so I don’t envy being able to drive. That said, I do pledge to the rights of women to drive. But there are more important things to focus on now in Saudi.

  10. I was very moved by her speech.
    She is a humble and very strong person, she is an example of every person not to step down to intimidation and pressure and stand for what is right and just.

  11. I know what I am about to say may sound controversial…nevertheless, I hope Manal will be focused on her pursue to gain rights for women and not allow herself to be a puppet for individuals or organisations who are on a mission to bring down Islam by incitement. I am just saying this since I have seen some notable Islam critics such as Richard Dawkins taking a huge ‘interest’ in her. Hope to God this is not another Hirsi ploy.

  12. Mrs B. I’m afraid you are not controversial, you are only all too common: to not celebrate a courageous and inspirational Saudi Muslim woman, but to try and belittle her by making up stuff about her. To blacken her reputation by gossip and backbiting.
    Anything but give her respect and the honor she’s due.

    Do you have proofs of the claims you are making? Share them with us. If you don’t have proof then why are you turning a positive post into something negative?
    What is your motivation in making these claims?

  13. It isn’t back-biting AA. I did not say she is doing all those things. Read my comment properly. I said I hope she will continue focusing on fighting for women rights and not be a puppet….She is a brave remarkable woman. Please don’t make up stories without reading my comment properly as you are accusing me of a huge sin – slander. This is all to common of you to misinfer comments and get riled up.

  14. Islam cannot be “brought down by incitement”.

    Women driving is directly tied in to guardianship and human rights issues. It is also a concrete visible example of these issues which is why it is so ideal to focus on. It is also very necessary. People are hungry and need to earn a living. Let them!

  15. Yes actually you’re right. Islam cannot be brought down by incitement or anything else for that matter since God has promised tp preserve it. But incitement of such could lead to Muslims being viewed with animosity and be placed under dangerous circumstances. You can see that all over Europe as it is. Let women drive, nobody here objects.

  16. Nobody in Saudi objects to women driving? In which universe do you live?

    What are your proofs for putting these claims and accusations up against Manal Al Sharif?
    Why don’t you share them?
    If you have no such proofs then why do you make up these nasty things against a nice, friendly, rational Saudi Muslim woman? What is your motive in changing a positive post, about a good woman who makes people think positively about Saudi women into something negative?

  17. Mrs. B … I’m waiting to hear a reply here as well.

  18. Did she mean in this forum? I can’t imagine anyone trying to claim that people in KSA don’t object, so maybe we’re misreading this.

  19. TE, Could be, good point. Although confusing because none of that comment related to the community on this forum, and Sandy was definitely referring to Saudi Arabia. which is the comment mrs B’s comment is a response to.
    Also, this forum’s opinion on women driving has no influence in Saudi Arabia, and so why refer to it?

    I would like to know, mrs B, what your motive is in trying to put suspicion on the honesty and motives of Manal Al Sharif.

  20. It is a little confusing, but when I read it I started with Sandy’s comment where it was explaining the evils of the driving ban and ending with “let them!” and then I read Mrs. B’s comment that agreed to let them and that no one here was objecting. I thought Mrs. B was kind of saying, “You don’t have to explain why the ban is bad here,” or something. Or maybe not, I can’t say, but I’ve never found anyone who wanted to tell me that everyone in KSA was on board this ship, so I’d be really surprised to meet someone who wanted to try their hand at defending that mess of an argument.

  21. Islam cannot be brought down by incitement but Manal Acharif’s enemies can use not justified rumours to bring her down by incitement. they have already tried, but it didn’t work because she is blessed. God protects her. she is really very courageous.

  22. Although Ms. Manal’s intentions are only known to her, there is one thing that needs attention.

    One fine afternoon, while I was driving in Bahrain, a red car suddenly appeared on the left lane. The driver was frantically waving at me. At first, I thought that something was wrong with my car – a flat tyre? smoking car?. Worried, I pulled up by the side and he too did that same in front of me. He got out and walked towards me.

    I rolled down the window and was about to ask him what the problem was, when his face creased into a lovely smile. He lowered himself to my eye level and said :

    “I love to see a tall woman driving and get to know her – its so s*e*x@y!” He, then, flipped his business card onto my lap, flashed his irresistable smile and winked from above his sunglasses, which was perching on his nose. “Call me”, he whispered and walked back to his car, hopped in and sped away.

    It all happened so fast and I was like – “what just happenned?”. When I recoverd from the confusion, I got out of my car, tossed the fat cushion I was sitting on to the back seat and replaced it with a flatter cushion from the passenger seat, sat back in and went on my away. I wasn’t so tall anymore.

    That incident happened and it can happen in KSA. My point is that before women can drive in KSA, men need to be taught roadside etiquettes. They need to respect and understand that women, just like them, need to go about to run errands or go places. Men should respect women and consider them as their mother, sister, daughter or aunt and that we are a part of the society too. They should learn to allow women to drive with dignity and honor.

    I feel that women on the roads of KSA will help men drive in a more civilised manner. I have seen men driving with their leg hanging out of the window. Now if there were women on the roads,driving, I don’t think they would like to stick their hairy legs out.

    The ban on women driving is not the problem of women but the behavior of men. I believe the roads of KSA will be safer when women are allowed to drive.

  23. I agree with Nassima. The incitements are coming from the radical Muslims not from the other side.

    It happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was mentioned by MrsB. She received death threats and her co-producer, Theo van Gogh, was actually killed in the broad daylight. Ayaan did not fold and just hide. She bravely faced these threats and founded the non profit AHA Foundation to protect women and girls from practices such as genital mutilation, honor killings and violence, forced marriages, etc. It is the radical Muslims who incite killing people who try to better the world by recognizing and working against such practices.

    In the case of Manal Al-Sharif, the fatwa machine has already turned against her, which resulted in her own death threats and was forced to skip attending “Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards” last year due to threats against her and her family.

    I am glad many of you here are recognizing this bashing of the reputation of Manal. It is usually veiled behind rumors like the one we saw here. The purpose is to cast doubts about her character.

  24. @Sarah,
    You should put back the tall cushion if it makes you a better/safer driver. The next pervert might NOT like tall women. Don’t give their bad behavior the power.

    I 100% disagree that there should be ANY conditions at all for women to drive- besides getting a license. ALL people on the road should behave but it isn’t fair to OPRESS half the population because some of the other half want to flirt. Saudi Arabia has had YEARS -GENERATIONS to teach men to behave – they haven’t bothered. STOP WITH THE DAMN EXCUSES. DON”T DRIVE IF YOU DON”T WANT TO that’s all you need to do. And YES I’m SHOUTING. Because you are trying to deny me my God given Human RIghts.

    Instead consider calling for no nonsense consequences for misbehaving men.

  25. I think men should be punished severely for bad road behavior and KSA should be more confident about her womenfolk. Of course initially it will be dfficult and there will be problems with men staring and all but all that will die down once the novelty has worn off. And women will deal with the problems themsleves just like they always do.

    I have been driving for several years and here in Riyadh my hands are itiching to drive. When KSA?

  26. Based on Wiki most Saudi scholars and religious authorities have declared women driving haram (forbidden).[21][23] Commonly given reasons for the prohibition on women driving include:

    i Driving a car involves uncovering the face.
    ii Driving a car may lead women to go out of the house more often.
    iii Driving a car may lead women to have interaction with non-Mahram males, for example at traffic accidents.
    iv Women driving cars may lead to overcrowding the streets and many young men may be deprived of the opportunity to drive.
    v Driving would be the first step in an erosion of traditional values, such as gender segregation.

    IMHO no one of those reasons justifiable to allow scholars to forbid women driving. I admit in Islam women better stay at homes and away of non-Mahram males(not a male relative) and we have such betters in Islam named Sunnah, but no one cannot make Sunnah an obligation. And I think women not driving is one of Sunnah not of Harams(forbidden).

  27. So according to scholars if my dad and husband are dead and i have no siblings and my son is 10 yrs old, I sit and rot at home???
    oh no I hire a strange driver – non-mahram and put myself in his mercy!! and pay his salaray with what? my non-existent paycheck?

    oh i forgot i have to be protected as the precious pearl . hmm

    there is NO SINGLE SANE reason why women should not be permitted to drive. it’s all int he mind of the men preventing them. insecurity . till that mindset changes , there is no way change can happen there atleast i dont expect it to in my lifetime which makes it all the more great that women like Manal are protesting. her courage is immeasurable and we as women should be behind her 100% . It takes great courage to take on the establishment. great great courage.

  28. Interesting information, Muslim pal.

    I think the scholars need only look to the entire rest of the planet, to see that Muslims exist outside of the one country that forbids female driving, as do Islamic communities/countries, who did not fall into complete turmoil because of their female drivers. Also, I actually laughed when I read about the overcrowding thing. Again, a glance outside of KSA’s borders shows that this is not and will never be true.

    It is as you said. Nothing justifies it, even from an Islamic standpoint. In the Quran, Mohammed himself is reprimanded by God for forbidding for himself what was permitted. I do not know how so many Muslims find themselves able to justify taking things away that were allowed by the Quran (anything not forbidden is permitted) in order to “protect” Islam and women. They wind up doing the precise opposite. Fear of fitna is never a good excuse to abandon your rights and principles. To me, it demonstrates a lack of faith in Islam, like they think they know better than their own god.

    Also, Sarah, I am sorry that that happened to you! But Sandy is right. Do not be afraid of them. I grew up in America, and I am quite familiar with the harassment of interested men. Believe me, you get used to it. You learn how to ignore them, you learn how to keep walking, you learn how to laugh it off. You and all other women are strong enough to take the occasional idiot tossing his business card your way, so don’t worry. If we wait for the worst of men to change before we take our rights, we will wait for a long, long time.

  29. I know about the well thought out reasons women should not be allowed to drive:
    – women will want to waste money on driving the latest flashy model
    – women will start dressing like sluts and go after men, like the women in the west
    – women will drive to be alone when they are upset, like men do
    – women will drive cars while men might want to drive those cars
    – women will be inciting men to rape them when they have a flat tire
    – women’s hearts are too weak to cope with the stress of driving a car

    Are Saudi women really so weak that their would get a heart attack when they drive a car?
    Are Saudi men so weak and unprincipled that they are forced to rape every woman who gets a flat tire?

    The only problem is that while everywhere else on the planet Earth women drive cars, nowhere else on the planet have any of these ”problems” come up.
    Fascinating to see that there are women who have been convinced to believe in this balderdash, but I suppose they get something back for it.

  30. Let me add it that such thing like banning women driving, women going out single, etc__which radha also mentioned__is not declared by the majority of Islam scholars in other parts of Muslim community like Egypt, Syria, Iran etc.

    Fatwas which are consensus among Muslim scholars would be as opposed to Saudi’s scholars.

    P.s. Saudi’s scholars are known as Salafi Maktab(school of faith pertainting to Salafism) that are well known of exremist faiths regarding Islam. Taliban & Al Qaeda rooted from them and act on their fatwas.

  31. Muslim Pal,

    What do you make of RuhAllah Khomeni’s ridiculous fatwa okaying marrying a “baby”. Also, the stupid fatwa on declaring Salman Rushdie as an apostate and the death fatwa on him which is still in effect since the 80’s.

    Are his fatwas out of line with the rest of mainstream scholars???

  32. Dear Moe, excuse me we may debate upon it another place. I think your Q is off topic.

    But in brief, Imam Khumeini excommunicate a scum who slanders Muhammad SAWAWS and that fatwa declared by many other scholars in Muslim community as well as the fatwa pertaining to marring babies(which is declared by over majority of Sunni and Shia scholars)

  33. Muslim Pal, you are right about the Salafis and they are spreading their form of misery to many other countries. Your Khumeini was not the nicest of men and did a lot of damage to both men and women with his extremist views. Surely you can admit that. I have a few Iranian friends here in Canada, both Muslim and non-Muslim. What they experienced was not very nice and that’s why they escaped to my wonderful country.
    As much as I say KSA is so ‘special’ (not meant in a good way) you do not see Saudis fleeing their country in droves to escape persecution.

  34. Moe’s question was in answer to you suggesting that your brand of Islam is so much better. So please refrain from going off topic, the topic is Manal Al Sharif’s excellent speech at TED, Women driving in Saudi Arabia is of course closely related to that.
    Comparing religions is definitely off topic.
    And proselytizing for any religion is against the blog rules and subject to editing.
    And btw, Salman Rushdie did not slander anybody.

  35. AA, sorry I went off topic but I couldn’t resist and I posted before your did. 😦

  36. Wendy, no problem.

  37. Radha, love your comment.

  38. Aafke this video was made by you…you have a special sence of humor…I like 100%….( I hope you get your loft with big big windows for the light….but i have heard they cut the support on artist in nl )

  39. One of the takeaways from another interview Manal gave to WSJ a while back, and best summarizes her feelings and emotions about driving for the first time, is this quote:

    “You know when you have a bird, and it’s been in a cage all its life? When you open the cage door, it doesn’t want to leave. It was that moment.”

  40. @ Wendy

    All the world congratulate Dr. Rouhani on the presidency except Canadian officials, ever-envious. They don’t even let us establish polls in there let alone it has closed our consulate. Hate it.

    @ Who call Rushdie innocent are who justify Terry Jones. Shameful.

  41. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has said that he wants women to drive when the society is ready for it:

    I believe strongly in the rights of women. My mother is a woman. My sister is a woman. My daughter is a woman. My wife is a woman. I believe the day will come when women will drive. In fact if you look at the areas of Saudi Arabia, the desert, and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive. The issue will require patience. In time I believe that it will be possible. I believe that patience is a virtue.
    Sourced from

    Then I have something:
    Why don’t you let them vote for their country while In Islam women testimony is permissible?

    What do you mean by “in time”? Tell us just when women do exactly drive.

    “the desert, and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive.” Yes, and we also find someones appointed ready to ambush women drivers at the same desert!!!

    May Allah guide you all too…

  42. I think it’s long past time to be “patient” about driving. Telling women about being patient is of the favorite ways to oppress women.

    I read Salmon Rushdie’s book. I’m the only Muslim I know who actually did. It wasn’t my thing exactly- but it wasn’t as was described by the Muslim leaders issuing fatwas. To issue fatwa’s without having read the book makes them completely unqualified to be jurists,

    That said- if he had slandered the prophet as they claimed, it still doesn’t warrant a death threat. People have the right to their opinions and ideas even if they are wrong.

  43. Let’s forget this for sake of Bedu. Off topic! We can debate that another place.

    Btw this is Fatwa of all Muslim scholars “any Muslim who says Quran is distorted or changed or slanders Muhammad SAWAWS is apostate and out of Islam and he deserves be killed.”

  44. Muslim pall

    NOBODY deserves to be killed….NOBODY has the right to kill

  45. The “women’s king” has always puzzled me. God knows he has the ability to reform the system. I have always wished he’d make greater strides for women’s rights in a timely order so that the little social change he creates won’t be undone with his successor, but now it looks like his legacy will be, “I’m working on it; don’t blame me!”

    A step in the right direction, but disappointing.

  46. TE,

    Perhaps the “women’s king” is afraid of meeting the same fate as King Feizal in the ’70s??

  47. Moe Bandy,

    Perhaps so, but it does not make me feel much better when those in the positions of power operate out of fear. When I first heard about King Abdullah, he seemed promising. But nevertheless, under his guidance, he has left his values and aspirations to be championed by his people at the high risk he is unwilling to take for himself.

    I understand it is a delicate situation, but he has responsibilities, and, if his values are at odds with the state of his country, he should have been bolder. Of this situation I sometimes think of a quote from Tolstoy: “Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb, or the wolf who does not?”

    Oh well.

  48. Muslim Pal, do I understand you right? You are calling out for the cowardly murder of a writer? Who did nothing, who isn’t from your country, who doesn’t believe in your nasty wicked religion, but you have heard somewhere that he wrote something you might not like about your crummy religion and so he should be murdered????

    And anybody who sees the light and realizes that the ”religion of Peace” is a bunch of made up immoral evil nonsense plagiarized from Christianity with some Jewish and pagan customs thrown in, should be murdered?
    You are the lowest example of human primates.

    Manal Al Sharif of course got death threats too. Apparently anybody who doesn’t tow the line deserves to be murdered. Especially women who don’t bow down and accept their subhuman slavery status deserve to be murdered.
    Do you think it is necessary for you to constantly prove that Islam is the religion of murder?
    We already know that. But thanks for proving it once again.

  49. Muslim Pal … if you really think about it if Allah is upset about someone saying something against the religion or the prophet then I guess Allah can do the punishing. Your ideas are sick IMHO.
    Now as far as Canada goes and how they reacted to the Iranian election has nothing to do with the freedoms people have in this country including those who left Iran.

    The ‘woman’s king’ is certainly for the rights of women but I believe the house of Saud made a deal with the proverbial devil so that they could keep their wealth and paper power. That is why the king and other royals want women to drive but don’t make it happen. Ditto on so many other ridiculous laws brought down my the religious whatever you want to call them.

  50. The horror and oppression of women is a direct result of wahabi Islam. Ms Manal almost has it figured out.

    I hope the rest of the world catches up. Wherever Islamic fundamentalism flourishes, women are enslaved and worse. 7th century returns with all its violence and stupidity in the muslim world.

    According to Wiki, schools for girls outnumber schools for boys in Saudi Arabia, and women account for 58 percent of college students. My guess is that, with these numbers, the regime’s repression of women cannot be sustained for too much longer.

    The cell phone, Internet, youtube, and twitter have provided, essentially, free assembly for women, and any kind of tyranny has trouble lasting in the bright light of the free exchange of ideas.

  51. So interesting how many girls are educated yet few are allowed to use that education for work.

  52. Muslim Pal spent a lot of time here with long rants about how his brand of Islam is different and better than the Wahabi Islam. However, his true believes just surfaced and they are no different than what you find with extremists like the Taliban. Anyone who disagrees with his ideology/religion must be killed for the simple expression of ideas or having a political affiliation other than the one sanctioned by the regime.

    This is the same ideology, which allowed Iran’s theocratic regime to execute tens of thousands of dissidents in the 80’s.

    I agree with Wendy this type of thinking is just sick.

  53. @ Wendy

    I didn’t hold a terrorist manner and that is not my idea, I only inform you what is consensus among all Muslim scholars. But you never respect freedom of speech…
    Freedom including Quran burning?
    Freedom including mocking prophets?

    Anyone who says yes is not a human for real.

  54. It is not a consensus among all Muslim scholars. And even if it were- then they are ignorant beyond belief.

    And yes, even IF he mocked the prophet- and I don’t think he did, since I actually read the book- that is NOT a capital crime in Islam, unless you believe Islam is a murderous intolerant religion. I don’t think it is.

  55. Muslim Pal, Yes! Free speech includes burning of Qurans. (which is after all one of the recommended ways to dispose of an old quran). And it includes mocking prophets. Why not? You yourself have no problem mocking what other people hold dear.
    Freedom of speech means you have to lump it sometimes when other people say the most outrageous evil nonsense, like reading a comment by some nitwit about killing writers for publishing a book which they never read but somebody told them there’s something in there they might not like.

    And it means that a hero like Manal Al Sharif can speak her intelligent mind. Without getting death threats.

  56. @ Sandy

    You said: It is not a consensus among all Muslim scholars.
    Can you mention one scholar who call “slanderer of prophet” Muslim?

    What about that caricatures within the West mocking Muhammad SAWAWS?

  57. As Sandy indicated, even if it is supported by most scholars, it just does not make any sense in Islam. My husband and I had this argument a little while ago, after watching that disgusting video of that scholar crying while he called for the punishment of Hamza Kashgari.

    My husband believed that Muslims should be executed, but all non-Muslims should not have any penalty. Even this seemed unsatisfactory.

    If we look at numerous accounts, Mohammed often spared the lives of opponents who converted to Islam, even against criticism from his own men, who saw their words as part of a transparent ploy. Their word alone was accepted, regardless of any extra evidence to the contrary, and the truth of their claims were left to be sorted out by God.

    There is no “close” to apostasy. There is no “as good as” apostasy. There is only one thing you can do to be logically charged with apostasy: confess that you have abandoned Islam.

    And, even if we believe that insulting equals apostasy, there are many additional problems. I asked my husband what should happen if the offender is young. He said: spared. Very old and unstable? Spared. Under some sort of influence? Spared. What if he was joking? Spared but reprimanded. Insane? Spared. When I asked what was left, he said a mature adult who said an insult consciously. I asked him what qualified as an insult, and who got to judge this, and who was qualified to judge his intentions and mindset, and it was at this point that my exhausted husband threw up his hands and said, “Then he should go to the court and they should ask him if he is an apostate, and let him go if he says ‘no.'” Exactly. But then we have to get into the longer discussion of whether or not 4:89-90 prescribes a worldly punishment in most cases even if he confesses.

  58. @TE,

    You should ask, why is Islam is the only religion left, which is obsessed with Killing people for none violent acts like apostasy or insulting Islam.

    All other religions have abandoned such uncivilized behavior. As a good example when the movie “The last temptation of Christ” was released, it was deeply offensive to many Christians (perhaps even more than the Satanic Verses). However, there were no calls for killing the producers or burning movie theaters, etc. Christians protested against the movie in a rational way.

    Muslims need to ask themselves why do they constantly get offended and go on violent protests resulting in damage to properties and death. Also why are Muslim clerics allowed to incite people to murder without the peaceful Muslims getting outraged over it and figure out a way to criminalize/marginalize such clerics.

    I think the conversation you had with your husband is nice, but let’s be clear he still wants people killed for the simple exercise of their right to change their religious belief. Most Muslims hold the same conviction which is a huge problem.

  59. Muslim Pal … Not all scholars agree on all points in the Koran or elsewhere.

    Freedom of speech allows for anybody to say anything. You’ve never known freedom so how could you possibly understand. Did you ever here the children’s rhyme … ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’? Well it’s a truth. Names don’t hurt anybody in reality. Do you see other religions wanting to kill people for speaking against their prophets such as Jesus? NO. Why is that? Because grown-ups with minds of their own understand that no harm is being done to anybody.

    Most religions have been violent at some time or other and now it seems the Buddhists are having a go but remember that as people evolve and learn and understand the true meaning of life and love and even God they understand that violence doesn’t solve anything so they stop it. Perhaps one day Muslims will get the same idea.

    Freedom of speech is so important. It’s too bad Manal couldn’t make her famous speech in her own country.

  60. MoQ,

    I understand, and it drives me crazy, as I think it might drive you or other readers a bit crazy to encounter someone who agrees with the principles of your argument but nevertheless finds themselves an accessory to the problem!

    If I could look into the future and see the state of Islam some centuries from now, maybe I’d have a different feeling about what you are saying, depending on what I saw. I know that right now, the state of Islam as it is practiced in the world is often volatile, unacceptable, and that Islam is a political and social weapon. However, as you and I both know, this was once true of Christianity–big time–for a while. This, luckily, changed, probably for a lot of reasons, but the one I’ve always suspected was that Christianity was in the back seat of social and educational evolution at its most critical times, and the sort of religious zealotry that was once common has been abated by the consequences of freedoms, social change, and general education.

    Unfortunately, most of the world where Islam is practiced is not in an excellent state. You are more likely to find poverty, lack of education (particularly of science), few rights, extreme social control, and this has been a breeding ground for what you see today. I do believe that, in time, this will subside to a comparable degree to Christianity and the like today. To say that it is something specific about Islam, like the Quran, is hard for me to believe, as we also have the Bible, which Christians believe is the truth of their religion, which contains a whole lot of similar laws and similar violence.

    I would love to see Islam one day join Christianity as a state where it is a voluntary practice that attempts to govern no one outside of its own jurisdiction (although even Christianity has a little bit more to go on this front). I’m trying not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in the meantime, and work on my husband, who, God help him, is trying to be more open-minded, but KSA sure has done a number on him.

  61. P.S.

    Just to clarify as to not make the same mistake with you twice: I did not mean to assume your feelings! More just to acknowledge that I know it looks pretty bad for me to, on one hand, agree with these things, but still support the “enemy.” It is a paradox I am asked about often!

  62. @TE,

    I agree Christianity has some of the same teachings as Islam including the violence. The reason Christians have become less radicalized is that they live primarily in countries where laws are based on secular principles. That means these countries rejected the rule of religion and replaced it with Civil laws based on logic. Muslim countries will not advance in this area until secular principles are applied.

    I always advocate for freedom of religion, but appose the meddling of religion in 3 areas:

    1) Politics
    2) Law
    3) Science

    Unfortunately, in most Muslim countries religion interferes in all these areas to an unacceptable degree.

    I disagree with you that Muslims will take centuries to change. I think the Islamic world is at a cross road at this point. Either Muslims advance quickly into civil societies or risk falling further behind the rest of the world and into religious/sectarian violence that will destroy their nations.

    I also disagree that it is only the lack of education that causes these problems. Most of the educated people in the Muslim world, some with Western education, believe in these ideas. You cannot dismiss the role of the religious dogma in impacting how people think and behave. There is clear support for these ideas in Islamic writings.

    Finally, I am glad that you are one of the small moral minority who rejects such violent ideas.

  63. The letterpress printing changed a lot in europe- people were able read and think about new ideas. they could share and discuss them.
    Without this invention there would not have been the renaissonce. This was a first step to freedom of speech… and it was the first ” mass medium”.
    But now the step is sooo big with internet. facebook, twitter etc. some people cant handle it….. they forget there is always a button “off,” on your device ,,, no body has to search the whole internet to find some caricatures and sell the flags of the country ( a good business btw ) to burn them.

    To get the freedom of religion in midwest europe costed nearly the life of half the population…. In the Netherlands it took about of 100 years
    to get the freedom to choose a religion…and this freedom is very precious, it costed a lot of blood. The town where i was born, in this 30 years of war, only 30% survived because of hunger and killing …the reason why ?… catholics against protestants…

    Therefore the freedom of thinking. believing and speech is so important ….

  64. MoQ,

    I had originally written “decades or centuries,” but wondered if decades was too optimistic, so I am glad you think it might not take that long.

    And, I agree, it is a multifaceted problem not limited to education. Maybe I’m just picking on this one because I’ve often hit walls in arguments because someone will think that a fact is a matter of opinion, leading to the thing that I most abhor to hear: “It’s true/false because the (religious document) proves that it’s true/false.” Or maybe because I was a student of science and it strikes a nerve. Which leads me to your three points that religion should not assume control over: yes, yes, yes. Thank you. I can only see the first two working on small scales with consenting, educated individuals in communities. Certainly not countries and the like where it is hard to escape and you have world influence.

    As for religious dogma, this is true, though I feel like the lack of exposure to new ideas/facts often enables this strong control. As you said, this can be a critical time for Muslims in general. I hope that we choose wisely.

    Finally, thank you, I am glad as well, but as a young woman who spends most of her free time knitting like a grandmother or shooting at pixels like a teenaged boy, I fear that my sentiments are not helping much of anyone.

  65. 1913 on the 14th of june a hundred years ago. Emily Davison a Suffragette was put in her grave, she was fighting for the right for women to vote….now 100 years later it is a shame that women who are asking for their rights are getting death threats

  66. Ange Bell, good comment, Information and media are very important. There is a reason why the internet is ”the place where religions come to die”. The more people learn, the more they start to think for themselves, the less we can be infected and ruled by religions.

    America is currently the only country with a firmly secular constitution, freedom of and from religion, and this is because of all the different groups who emigrated to America to escape from religious persecution.
    And the first thing they did when settled in America is start persecuting each other.
    And the reason rulers and clergy want to curtail freedom of speech, or murder apostates, is because they know they are weak, their rule/ideology/dogma/religion is weak and cannot stand up against critical thought.

    In Saudi Arabia the establishment is afraid of women like Manal Al Sharif because she is intelligent and uses reason. These are their greatest enemy.
    Their response is, at the mildest, to insinuate slurs on her character, as we saw happening on this very thread, to at it worst: murder threatd or actual murder. As happened in the Netherlands to Ayaan Hirshi Ali and Theo van Gogh, who was murdered by a coward in the Netherlands.

  67. AA … Canada’s not? Surely the USA isn’t the only country. 🙂 I would say that religion enters into US politics quite a lot in spite of the constitution. Religion doesn’t govern Canadian law or Canadians yet although the province of Ontario almost weakened on Sharia law. 😦

    I think it will be a very long time before anything changes in Islamic countries. The religion is forced on people before they are born and the fear of what would happen to them physically and mentally if they even think about another religion or even think about their own religion for that matter is too much for most to deal with. Some people who come west may think more about the bad stuff in Islam but even for them it is unlikely they’ll leave Islam. I don’t hold out for any major change for lots and lots of decades. In fact if you look at the spread of Islam ……. Scary!!!
    The brave souls like Hirshi Ali and Rushdie who have lots to say against Islam are few and far between. There are more people like Manal but not enough to change things IMHO. Saudi will change but it will be slow and it will always be strongly Salafi but some rights for women will come.

  68. Wendy, does Canada have a solid, religion-free constitution? Brilliant!
    Yes, America is definitely under attack from the Christian right, but that is because they understand the freedom, of mind the constitution guarantees, and they want to take that freedom away.
    Very much.

    Change could come. However, I do notice that taking rights away from women is always possible to take giant steps, and when it’s about improving women’s rights, it’s baby steps…

  69. @Muslim Pal
    To clarify. There was not consensus that Rushdie slandered the Prophet. And there is not consensus that slander equals apostasy (it doesn’t) and there is not consensus that apostasy has the death penalty.

    The problem was never apostasy. It was that historically apostasy was the method for listening in on Muslim plans then leaving the fold and committing TREASON. Treason is a very big problem. These are very different things and many scholars seem not to know this. But many also do.

    The Quran says “no compulsion in religion” so obviously apostasy isn’t an issue. And any “scholarly” interpretations with hadith that go around that aren’t valid.

    What about the cartoons? What about them? So what? A picture can’t hurt anyone. What do I care what rude people think when there are still hungry children in the world? I don’t waste my time on such nonsense.

  70. Nice one Sandy.

  71. AA … Canada does! Even more solid than the USA. Another difference between Canada and the USA is that Canadians never question or care about the religion of a politician. We have people of all religions in all areas of political life. Americans get stupid. I remember when it was a big deal that John F. Kennedy got elected because he was Catholic. Remember the hoopla (and it is still going on ) about the possibility that Obama might be Muslim. In Canada it’s a non-issue. I’m pretty sure the UK is the same. We are a secular people!

  72. In the Netherlands a politician who went on about how they were ”guided by god” would be laughed out of politics.
    One of my best friends just emigrated to Canada, I would like to live in Canada.

  73. It’s nice and it’s full of Dutch people. I’m sure we could accommodate one more. 🙂 I must say that our current Prime Minister is a jerk but apart from that …..

  74. And it’s cool….

  75. As long a Saudi’s think they need to keep women from driving until society is ready for it, they won’t be able to drive. If male drivers are reckless, they are the ones who should be punished, not female drivers.

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