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A review of reforms and consideration of gender equality in Saudi Arabia is available through the publication of an English-language Saudi daily newspaper and internet feed called the Arab News (Lichter 2009). The Arab News focuses on the social reforms of Saudi women including the probation against driving, domestic violence and educational inequities (Lichter 2009). The furor over Saudi driving restrictions have sparked several on-line initiatives, resulting in an 2011 driving protest in which 40 Saudi women were arrested. This action initiated a Saudi moral definition of the term “licentiousness”, describing the willful disobedience of driving. When the subject of driving restriction were evaluated, the Saudi government countered with the argument that the problem is not with women driving per see, the problem exists with the provision that women could not acquire a driver’s license as they would have to remove their facial veil for the license photo. Showing a woman’s face would be an egregious sin against Islamic law. Instead of reconsidering license photo restrictions, the Saudi government puts their spin on the subrogation of women through the insidious “protections” of Islamic fundamentalism (Lichter 2009). Saudi reform reflects challenges to the perceived inequalities that affect women but never to the interpretation and distortions of Islamic law. The basis of Saudi reform is that followers of Islam does not require them “to cover their faces or to lead a sequestered life” (Lichter 2009:284).
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While time may adjust the rigidity of Saudi Arabia’s dominance and control of the female gender, the foundation of Islam than permeates the Saudi consciousness and formulates the very foundation of their existence is destined to continue. The perceptions of Western culture can observe the gender differences existing in Saudi Arabia but cannot purport to endorse change without a cognitive understanding of the cultural specificities that motivates, and validates their beliefs, role expectations, societal worth, and family values. Change to the lives of women in Saudi Arabia must come from within, requiring a paradigm shift and a cultural destruction in Saudi cultural religious and moral belief systems. With Islam fundamentalism as its base, we can foresee a very slow progression towards the Western interpretation of equality for Saudi women.