Last month, a senior cleric stated that Saudi women should be dressed modestly, but this does not necessitate wearing the “abaya” — a loose-fitting, full-length robe. Just recently, the same sentiment was expressed by no less than Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
During an interview with CBS on television, the Saudi Crown Prince said that women do not need to wear the abaya as long as their attire is “decent and respectful.” His latest statement is yet another indication of the major changes happening in the Kingdom today.
Prince Salman Says Abayas Not Necessary
“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia (Islamic Law): that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” Prince Mohammad stated during the interview.
“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover,” he explained. “The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”
For a long time now, Saudi women have been wearing abayas — covering their hair and faces — when out in public. However, there is, in fact, no legal code or text requiring them to do so. Hence, the Prince’s statement could eventually change this generations-old practice.
Women’s Rights: Slowly but Surely
With the 32-year old Crown Prince playing a more active role in the Kingdom’s affairs, major reforms have been taking place — especially in terms of women’s rights.
In recent years, Saudi women have begun wearing abayas in bright colors, instead of the traditional black. Similarly, wearing abayas over long jeans or skirts is now becoming more common.
Aside from changes in dress code, Saudi women will soon be allowed to drive. What’s more, they are now free to join the army, attend mixed public sporting events, and engage in other activities. For a country that is traditionally conservative, these are huge changes, indeed!