Hannibal Free Public Library

Daring to Drive

Manal Al-Sharif

August 19, 2019
2:30 – 4:00 p.m.


Discussion Questions

1. Manal grew up in relative poverty. What facets of her upbringing surprised you most: that her family was not rich? That her parents had both been divorced? That her father could not read or write? Why?

2. The Saudi Rule of Guardianship: The Saudi rule of guardianship exists because the Saudi system does not recognize women as adults for their entire lives. “Even a woman in labor will not be admitted into a hospital without her guardian or at least a mahram. Police cannot enter a home during a robbery, and firefighters are forbidden from entering a home during a fire or medical emergency if a woman is inside but does not have her mahram present.” (7) To your mind, which would be more difficult to live with: Saudi rules requiring male guardians for everything from emergencies to travel, schooling, and employment or forbidding women from driving? Could one policy change without the other changing as well? As a result of the guardianship rule, what advantages and disadvantages might women encounter in their everyday lives?

3. Virginity: At eight years old, Manal gets circumcised against her will, after which her mother warns her repeatedly not to participate in any physical activity that might damage her hymen and call her purity into question. Were you surprised by the emphasis on virginity and sexual purity in book? What would you say to a person who was defending these practices in Saudi society? 

4. “As soon as a girl reaches puberty . . . she is obliged to enter a state known in Arabic as khidr (‘numbness’). She must be outwardly devoid of emotions and feelings. In public, she must veil herself from prying eyes and avoid speaking.” (90) What do you think is the primary objective or purpose of the veiling of women in Saudi Arabia? What do you think explains Manal’s ever-changing feelings about the coverings she wears? What does the onset of veiling for girls in Saudi Arabia suggest about society’s views of girlhood, womanhood, and female sexuality?

5. How does Manal’s embrace of religious fanaticism as an adolescent affect her relationships? When Manal betrays her siblings and exposes their haram (forbidden) activities—her brother’s clandestine listening to Western music, and her sister’s secret conversations on the phone with a man—to their parents, to what extent does she believe their punishments are justified? How did you respond to these punishments and conflicts? Are they similar to basic family issues around the world, or are they fundamentally different? 

6. As a young student, Manal al-Sharif receives instruction in the Doctrine of Loyalty and Disavowal, a tenet of radical Islam that compels Muslims to hate anyone deemed infidel, or faithful to a religion or creed other than Islam. Manal later rejects these ideas. Do you think that Manal’s views might have changed anyway if the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had not happened?

7. “It can be difficult for people living outside of Saudi to understand why so many in our culture, women in particular, submit, stay, and suffer . . . physical violence. But the price of resisting can be even higher.” (183) In light of the physical violence that she endures over the course of her life, to what extent does Manal al-Sharif embody a stereotypical Saudi woman? By serving as the face of a grassroots campaign aimed at changing Saudi attitudes about female drivers, how does she expose herself to the possibility of violence? To what extent do you think this makes her a hero?

8. When Manal al-Sharif gets arrested and jailed for driving outside the Aramco compound, Saudi authorities claim that she disobeyed orf, or tradition—not the law. Given that official Saudi code does not prohibit women drivers, why do you think the police chose to incarcerate Manal? What do the distinctions between tradition and the law reveal about the Saudi Arabian criminal justice system and the power of its religious police?

9. “In Saudi Arabia, your patriotism is measured by how much you love the king. The king is revered like a father, and we are considered his daughters and sons.” (13) Consider the Saudi concept of patriotism and discuss how political dissent is viewed in Saudi society. To what extent does the Women2Drive campaign seem patriotic?

10. Discuss the impact of developing technology (satellite dishes, the Internet, cell phones with cameras, and social media) on the daily life in Saudi Arabia. To what extent is this kind of disruption inevitable for all societies? How is it uniquely threatening to insular societies like Saudi Arabia?

11. Of the many rich details of Saudi Arabian life detailed by Manal al-Sharif in Daring to Drive, which did you find most memorable or eye-opening and why? Discuss and compare your reactions and reflections with members of your book club.



Adapted from:  https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Daring-to-Drive/Manal-al-Sharif/9781476793030