Senior Saudi cleric says women shouldn’t be forced to use abayas

A senior Saudi cleric has said that women shouldn’t be forced to wear abayas, the loose dress-like garment used by women in Saudi Arabia that is enforced by law.

The declaration was made by Sheikh Abdulla al-Mutlaq, a member of the kingdom’s Council of Senior Scholars.

“More than 90 percent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas,” said al-Mutlaq.

Even though he didn’t say he would support a law change, some claim recent events in Saudi Arabia could change this.

The declaration was welcomed by many and rejected by others who see the abaya as a symbol of pious religiousness.

Last year, a royal decree allowed women to drive in the kingdom, starting in June 2018. Saudi Arabia was the only recognized state applying such a law, using religion and local customs to justify it, despite a well-organised movement opposing it since the early 1990s.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been recognised as a key-figure in the most recent reforms of the kingdom.

Last month, women were let in a football stadium to watch a game for the first time.

These reforms may legally give women more freedoms, but some think this is only a move to improve Saudi Arabia’s foreign image, while they keep committing crimes against other countries in the region.

“Breaking: Saudi Arabia still an autocratic repressive state that is currently killing Yemenis and uses cosmetic changes to improve its image,” tweeted Linah Alsaafin, producer for Al Jazeera English.

Saudi Arabia is known for having some of the harshest laws on women. In order to travel or open a bank account, women need a “guardian’s permission” to be signed by the husband or a male family member.

Women activists have also been organizing against this law, using an arabic hashtag that can be translated as #IAmMyOwnGuardian.

Even though women don’t legally need guardian permission to get a job anymore, many employers keep asking for it.

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