RIYADH : The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia said a ban on women driving in the Gulf state protects society from “evil”, in remarks published in the press on Thursday.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, in a speech delivered Wednesday in Medinah, said the issue of giving women the right to drive should not be “one of society’s major concerns”. The kingdom’s most senior cleric called for “the matter to be considered from the perspective of protecting society from evil” which, according to him, included letting women drive. His comments came as activists said they had been assured by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef that authorities were reassessing the controversial Saudi ban on women drivers.

“Rest assured that the issue is being discussed, and expect a good outcome,” the minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday by Aziza al-Yusef, who met him along with fellow activist Hala al-Dosari.

The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, a regulation that has drawn condemnation from the international community.