Kuwait: Appeal to ban driving with niqab

Kuwait Times

A famous political online community forum is pushing for liberal MPs to submit a question to the Minister of Interior Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah on why women wearing niqabs are allowed to drive without being fined. According to a law passed in 2006, women covering their faces are not allowed to drive cars in Kuwait, but this law has not been put into practice. The posted announcement on the online forum quotes driving safety as the reason for this incentive, and says that since other MPs are submitting questions which demand that the law be practiced and followed thoroughly, this is one of the laws that has been ignored for a while and, it insists: "It is about time that it is put into practice."

Reactions to this incentive varied: Many of those who are supportive of women wearing niqab and driving insisted that the application of the law is a violation of the laws and customs of religion, and goes against the freedom granted by the Constitution to Kuwaiti citizens.

Many others consider this an honest call for indecency and an encouragement to corruption and immorality. However, a lot of supporters of this law expressed that it needs to be applied if the government insists on going by the rules. The niqab is arguably not a religious must; it is a tradition inherited from the old days through life in the desert. Citizen Abdullah Al-Aif, 38, thinks that if the government insists on applying this law and controlling women's dress code, then they should also consider a law against wearing the headdress men wear with traditional attire.

It is like the niqab. It can be bothersome to many drivers," he said, mockingly to the Kuwait Times. Latifa Al-Ajmi, 27, is a woman who wears the niqab and drives. She says that it does not bother her to drive while wearing the niqab most days. "When there are check points, police men ask me to reveal my face when I present them with my driving license. It is a necessity; they must know who is driving the car. I have no problem revealing my face then," she said, stressing that a niqab is not usually worn religiously.

If the law is applied, Latifa says that she doesn't see a problem in taking off her niqab while driving, "I work close to where I live; I don't have a problem making the short commute to the school where I work without wearing my niqab. Inside the school, I only teach girls and so I feel comfortable not wearing my niqab. Some of my colleagues and some students even take off their hijab, since the school is a girls-only zone," she added. Latifa believes that this issue is only surfacing for political reasons, and MPs will be the ones who benefit from it the most.

Published Date: April 29, 2010 

By Hussain Al-Qatari, Staff Writer