(Female driver Azza Al Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed)

Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving is not mandated by any text in Sharia, the Islamic legal code which forms the basis for most Saudi law, the head of its morality police told Reuters on Thursday.

Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh stressed that he has no authority to change Saudi policy on women driving, but his comment may feed into a national discussion in Saudi Arabia, where women have in the past been arrested for defying the ban.

Although Saudi Arabia has no written legal code to go with the texts making up sharia, its police and judiciary have long enforced a prohibition on women driving, citing the country’s conservative customs.

Even without any specific law against women driving, women who defied the prohibition have been arrested by the country’s regular police department and put on trial on charges that include causing public disturbance.