Saudi women should not have to wear the abaya, a long loose-fitting robe used to cover their bodies in public, a top religious cleric has said.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said women should dress modestly, but this did not have to mean wearing the abaya.
Saudi women are currently required to wear the garment by law.
The cleric’s intervention comes amid moves to modernise Saudi society and relax restriction on women.
“More than 90% of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas. So we should not force people to wear abayas,” Sheikh Mutlaq said on Friday.
It is the first time a senior cleric has made such a statement, which may form the basis of Saudi law in the future.
What has the reaction been?
Sheikh Mutlaq’s intervention has generated intense reaction online, with people expressing both support and opposition.
“The abaya is a matter of …