Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Salah al-Luhaydan has sought to calm the growing uproar against a ban on women driving in his kingdom by saying that driving may seriously harm women's ovaries and pelvises.

The top Saudi official, who is also a psychologist, said driving "could have a reverse physiological impact. Physiological science and functional medicine studied this side [and found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis. This is why we find for women who continuously drive cars their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees," according to the country's news website, reported Al Arabiya.

His remarks come at a time when thousands of women in Saudi Arabia have launched a campaign for the ban on driving to be lifted.

The sheikh also wants women to use "the mind before the heart and emotion and look at this issue with a realistic eye. The result of this is bad and they should wait and consider the negativities."

The campaigners have urged women to defy the ban on 26 October by openly taking to the road.

The activists declared on the website "Since there are no clear justifications for the state to ban adult, capable women from driving, we call for enabling women to have driving tests and for issuing licences for those who pass."

The Saudi leader's comments have taken Twitter by storm, and scores of Arabs are giving vent to their rage.

User Tarek Fatah wrote: "Saudi 'scientist' makes ground-breaking discovery: Women who drive cars have children born with clinical disorders."

Another female user of the social media wondered whether the Saudi sheikh "studied Shariah, medicine or foolishness".