No veil and drive in Kuwait

In most countries you cannot drink and drive; in Saudi Arabia women cannot drive and no one can drink; in Kuwait, women can drive, as long as they do not veil their faces.

According to a new traffic order issued by the Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Ahmad el- Hamoud al-Sabah, drivers caught with covered faces will be banned from driving for up to four months.

The new order caused a row in the Majlis el-Umma, Kuwait's parliament, between Muslim fundamentalist MPs who want to impose a strict medieval version of sharia (Islamic law) and the government which argued that headgear, whether worn by men or women, hampers vision and causes accidents. The police also want all drivers to show their faces out of concern for security.

Yesterday the emirate's veteran Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, refused to see an Islamic bloc MP, Mubarak al-Duwailah. Sheikh Sabah was reported as saying that if women wanted to follow the fatwa (religious edict) by Sheikh Bin Baz - Saudi Arabia's supreme religious scholar who once ruled that the earth was flat - to wear the full veil then they should also follow his fatwa prohibiting women from driving.

Yesterday, some 300 Islamist bearded men and veiled women held a noisy protest in parliament demanding to see the Minister of the Interior. He refused to meet them.