Women in Saudi Arabia don't need to wear an abaya, the full-length robe like dress that women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear, according to a top religious cleric.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, told Reuters on Friday that while Saudi women should dress modestly, that doesn't mean they should just wear the abaya. Long Dress Muslim Islamic Clothing
"More than 90 percent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas," Sheikh Mutlaq said. "So we should not force people to wear abayas."
Sheikh Mutlaq's statement is the first time a religious leader has said women are not required to wear the loose-fitting dress. His status as a member of the Council of Senior Scholars could mean the beginning of a new Saudi law.
This is also a sign that the kingdom is slowly modernizing now that Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman begins to come into power. Bin Salman has expressed interest in reforming all of the Muslim cultures and wants all religions to be accepted in a country that is extremely conservative.
"We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world. We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today," Salman said last year.
Over the past few years, women in Saudi Arabia have begun wearing abayas that are more colorful instead of wearing the traditional black abaya. Many women also wear the abaya over long skirts or jeans.
Rights for women in Saudi Arabia have seen a drastic change. A decision was recently passed that allowed women to attend public sporting events with men. An announcement was made that women would be granted the right to drive in September.
Arabic Clothing For Ladies But, the country has a long way to go when it comes to women's rights. Human rights activists have said women's rights activists have been arrested recently. 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.