Saudi Arabia isn’t ready to end the world’s only ban on women driving, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, arguing it’s not just a matter of ending strictures imposed by the kingdom’s austere form of Islam.That got me thinking. Can it be that it's not a matter of religion (Islam)?
Allowing women to drive is “not a religious issue as much as it is an issue that relates to the community itself that either accepts it or refuses it,” said the 30-year-old prince, who has amassed unprecedented powers since his father, King Salman, ascended to the throne. “The community is not convinced about women driving” and sees negative consequences if it’s allowed, the prince said on Monday after outlining a plan to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil. [my emphasis]
So I did a bit of research and analysis.
I put together the Global Gender Gap index of 2015, from the well-regarded World Economic Forum, together with the figures for the percentage of Islam by country in each of the 145 countries in the WEF index. Then I did a correlation function.
The correlation between the two is: minus 0.63. According the the Pearson correlation function, that's classified as a "strong" correlation. In this case, a negative correlation: that is: the greater the percentage of Muslims in a country's population, the worse its gender gap.
Nothing else can explain the correlation. These are countries with different ethnicities, different political systems (though most are authoritarian or theocratic), different histories and different geographies. There's only one factor that binds them all, and that's the ideology of Islam. So as far as the Saudi ban on women driving is concerned, it's just that they take the gender gap just that little bit further. Women driving? It's not Islamic.
Another highlight: The bottom 23 countries in the WEF Gender gap index are all majority Muslim countries. The message is clear: if you're born a woman in a Muslim majority country, that's very bad luck for you indeed.
My calculations in an Excel spreadsheet are here.