A Saudi government minister has been embroiled in a row after removing her veil during a public appearance.
Dr Haya Al Awad, the Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister for Girls’ Education, was appearing at the International Exhibition & Forum For Education in the Saudi capital Riyadh at the time.
During the conference she made several speeches in front of large crowds dressed in the traditional Muslim niqab – but without the usual veil through which only the person’s eyes are visible.
She instead chose to wear an open faced veil so that crowds could see her mouth, nose and chin. But she was soon blasted on social media for the decision – with some critics saying she had ‘not kept up with religious and social traditions’.
However, many of Saudia Arabia’s leading academics and public figures have hit back at the online trolls on Dr Al Awad’s behalf.
Sulaiman Al Tareefi, a religious preacher, said she had not broken any rules and was simply exercising her right to appear without a veil.
While all versions of Islam suggest a woman should dress modestly, often covering her hair and body, Saudi Arabia is one of the only Muslim-majority countries that legally imposes a dress code.
Women, foreign and local, are required wear an abaya (a long black cloak) in public places. There are, however, no rules that say it is mandatory for any woman to cover their face – much to the annoyance of some hard-line Muslims.
Saud Al Musaibeeh, a media and education advisor, said that he ‘hailed Al Awad for adopting the stance of religious scholars who allowed women not to cover their faces.
‘She is following what she believes is right regardless of what she has to endure from those who oppose her view,’ he said, quoted by Saudi news site Al Marsad on Monday.
‘Unfortunately, there are those who want to seize every occasion to attack a woman official and to incite the public against her. People have to be really careful about such subversion attempts generated by those hiding behind their computers.’
Blogger Hatoon Qadhi said that although she generally kept her distance from issues related to the hijab, niqab and burka, she felt she had to join in the debate in the aftermath of the humiliating attacks on a respected woman holding a high position.
‘Dr Haya does not need anyone to defend her because she has made no mistake. In fact, I wish she would go ahead and prosecute all those who have abused her,’ she posted.
Source Credit: Daily Mail