Saudi women need not wear Abayas, top cleric in Saudi says By

Elias Hubbard
February 11, 2018

While many Muslim women around the world wear hijab by choice, in Saudi Araba, it is mandatory to wear a headscarf and a woman who fails to wear it in public faces punishment.

Saudi women need not wear the abaya, a senior member of the country's top clerical body has said. "So we should not force people to wear abayas", he stated on his radio programme on Friday.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq-a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, on his television show said that the Muslim women must dress in an appropriate modest way, but this does not mean that they should necessarily wear an abaya.

The move comes amid reform attempts - including greater freedoms for women - being led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The government has not said whether it will change the law, but this is the first such comment from a senior religious figure. Their interpretations of Islamic law form the basis of Saudi Arabia's legal system.

In the present times, the Saudi Arab women have started wearing colourful abayas like the light pinks and blues in plain contrast to the traditional black robes. Many women also wear the abaya over long skirts or jeans.

The trend marks a major change in the last couple of years.

It's worth mentioning that the ultra-conservative country detained a woman in 2016 for removing her abaya on a main street in the capital of Riyadh, Reuters news agency reported.

Under King Abdullah, Saudi women were granted the right to vote for the first time as well as run in local elections, which they did in December 2015. Activists have blasted the country's guardianship system which requires a male family member to grant permission for a woman to study overseas, travel and other activities. Noha al-Balawi, a women's rights activist, could be jailed for up to five years for advocating for women's rights on social media.

The government's Center for International Communications did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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