Saudi public opinion is reeling from Monday’s detention of a young woman who, according to police, violated modesty rules after she removed her abaya, the loose-fitting, full-length robes women are required to wear, on a main street in the capital Riyadh.
The conservative Muslim country enforces a strict dress code for women in public, bans them from driving and prohibits the mixing of sexes.
The Saudi media reported that the woman announced on social media that she was planning to challenge the authorities by taking off her abaya, as well as smoke in a public place and meet with a male friend. Later that day, she reportedly published pictures of herself without her abaya.
Top cleric Dr Waad Alqarni claimed that she was a mere victim of circumstance. “She’s a victim of articles and columns and hashtags promoting liberalism, atheism and moral abandon. She should be punished for breaking the law, but the judges must take into account the articles and online campaigns to which these young people are exposed. Our kingdom, as the place on which divine inspiration descended from heaven and the guardian of the two most sacred places on earth, has a social and political obligation to impose sharia law.”
“Those who live here have to play by our special rules,” he added.
Social media users were less forgiving. “She deserves to be arrested,” Shamar wrote. “What is not wearing an abaya supposed to mean? She has no man in her life to control her and educate her? She’s a primitive woman who sticks her fingers up to Allah’s sharia.”
احسن تستاهل نظام يعنني انا كشخه انا مالبس عبايه اقول ولي ماوراك رجال يمسكك ويأدبك متخلفه تعتدي على شرع الله😒🔪.
— مـً﴾ شمر (@iiimam_2) December 12, 2016
“The devil embellishes sin to attract her,” Fahda wrote. “The Quran says the devil said: ‘Allah I shall embellish the sins on earth to seduce them.'”
#مسجونه_بتهمه_خلع_العبايه فعل المعصية يسبقه تزيين الشيطان لها حتى يكون طمعاجاذبالها(قال رب بماأغويتني لأزينن لهم في الأرض ولأغوينهم أجمعين)
— فهده بنت شمر (@xz7moooooood1) December 12, 2016
“Shame on you, you fool,” another wrote. “In the land of the sacred places you dare walk without wearing an abaya?? I swear, if you were my relative I’d slash you to pieces, you rude b*tch.”
نعلبو شكلك ي التافهه
بلاد الحرمين الشريفين تخرجي بدون عبايه وقسم بلاه لو لي صله فيك كان قطعتك وصل بلا تربيه
— مشتاق العلوي (@b8a1d3ebcf96471) December 13, 2016
“Dear Lord,” Mosa wrote, “if she doesn’t fear Allah how will she fear men?”
الله لايبلانا هذي ماهافت من ربه عشان تخاف من البشر #مسجونه_بتهمه_خلع_العبايه
— لابتي شمر (@mosa_4u) December 12, 2016
“She’s not guilty of taking her abaya off, but of stripping herself of morality and good taste,” Ben Shaher wrote. “The abaya is not just a piece of cloth – it’s a woman’s barrier between herself and those who want to harass her.”
ليست التهمه خلع العبايه ولكن خلع الحياء وهدم الثوابت
العبايه ليس مجرد قماش بقدر ماهو حاجز بينك وبين المتطفلين ..
— بِنْ شَاهِر ، (@abuzead_5005) December 12, 2016