Proton the Malaysian car maker is set to begin production of a car built specifically for Muslims. The car will come complete with a compass to indicate the direction of Mecca for prayers and a compartment to house the Koran and prayer scarves, not sure if this will be in addition to or just a clever marketing term for the glove compartment.
Proposed by Iran, the plan is under consideration by Malaysia’s national auto maker Proton, the company’s managing director said at the weekend in Tehran, where he is taking part in a business mission.
Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir told the Malaysian Bernama news agency that the proposed model, which the Iranians suggested be called an “Islamic car,” could be produced in Malaysia, Iran or Turkey.
“The car will have all the Islamic features and should be meant for export purposes,” he said, adding that with government support, the producers could expect a large volume of orders.
Proton has been building cars since the 1980s, and sold about 150,000 in 2005 before experiencing a slump in 2006. Most of its sales are domestic although it also exports to countries mostly in the Middle East and Asia. It has been in talks with potential international partners.
Praying five times a day in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest place in Islam, is one of the pillars of the faith.
There are an estimated 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, with the largest populations in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.
Most bigger Muslim countries have low per-capita car ownership figures – fewer than 100 cars per 1,000 people, although a U.S.-British academic study early this year predicted significant increases by 2030 in countries like Turkey, India and Indonesia.
One might wonder what some other special features might be needed to make a true Muslim-mobile. One feature that may not be necessary is a driver’s side makeup mirror. Women in some Muslim countries are banned from driving and Saudi Arabia’s longstanding ban on female drivers went an extra mile when women were barred from using golf carts to move around a cultural festival, according to Saudi newspapers.
“Women in Saudi Arabia are safer, and better taken care of, and have more status and privilege than women in the West,” says writer Lubna al-Tahlawi. Western women are viewed as sex objects, suffer from a high rate of prostitution, and don’t even make the same salary as men for the same job, as women here do, she argues. “Driving has not improved their lives.”
Marina Mahathir, a prominent campaigner for women’s rights, compared the lot of women to that of black South Africans under apartheid.
But his daughter Marina has described Muslim women in Malaysia as subject to a form of apartheid – second-class citizens held back by discriminatory rules that do not apply to non-Muslim women.
Her outburst appears to have been prompted by recent changes to Malaysia’s Islamic family law that makes it easier for Muslim men to take multiple wives, to divorce them and to take a share of their property.
The women’s ministry encouraged female lawmakers to vote for the measures, saying they could be amended later.
That prompted widespread criticism and has led Miss Marina to suggest the ministry be split in two – one to help non-Muslim women fight discrimination, the other to keep Muslim women, in her words, bound and gagged.
Jihad ready the Muslim mobile will be exploding on the market soon, and in a crowded market, airport or wherever there are large crowds soon after…