The appearance of a female newsreader without a headscarf on Saudi TV has sparked outrage in the strict Islamic country. The anchor, who has not been named, has previously worn a hijab in news clips posted online. She was reading a bulletin from the London studio for the Al Ekhbariya channel.
Gulf News reports that Saleh Al Mughailif, a Saudi radio and television spokesman, said: “She was not in a studio inside Saudi Arabia and we do not tolerate any transgression of our values and the country’s systems,”
He promised that all possible measures would be taken to make sure such an incident never happens again.
Social networks in the Arab kingdom were full of comments on the unusual sight. Although many commenters condemned the transgression, some said that the incident should not be overblown and that women often appear on TV without headscarves, although not reading the news.
Saudi Arabia has been divided over the role of women in society. A decision by King Abdullah to appoint 30 women to the Shura Council, an advisory body that resembles a parliament, has been seen as a landmark step for women’s rights in the country. The kingdom is also debating whether women should be allowed to drive.
The wearing of the hijab is more strictly enforced in some parts of the country than in others. The captial, Riyadh, rigidly enforces the garment, with “mutawa” religious police tasked with ensuring women do not appear in public without covering their hair, while the coastal city of Jeddah is more liberal.
Prince Waleed Bin Talal does not enforce the hijab in the offices of his private business, making it one of the few places where women can roam freely with their hair uncovered.