You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

German minister refuses to wear headscarf in Saudi Arabia days after Merkel calls for burka ban in Germany

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 15/12/2016 Saphora Smith

© Provided by Independent Print Limited A German minister has refused to wear a headscarf during a visit to Saudi Arabia as she said women should have the right to choose what they wear.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was in the Saudi capital, Riydah, to meet deputy crown prince Salamn bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud when she voiced her concern that women were forced to cover up.

Speaking of her decision not to wear a headscarf or the abaya, the ubiquitous (and obligatory) cover for women in Saudi Arabia, Ms Von der Leyen said: “No woman in my delegation will be required to wear the abaya, as the [right] to choose one’s attire is a right shared by men and women equally."

Her comments reported in German newspaper Das Bild sparked uproar in the deeply-conservative state with Saudi citizens taking to social media to say she had insulted their country.

Ms Von der Leyen arrived for her meeting with the deputy crown prince wearing a western-style dark trouser suit and no headscarf.

Her comments come days after Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban of full-faced veils in Germany “wherever legally possible” and in the same week that a Saudi woman was arrested for taking off her veil in public.

All women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear the abaya which covers the entirety of a woman’s body apart from her face, hands and feet.

Muslim women usually pair the abaya with a headscarf of some sort.

Ms Von der Leyen followed the example of US First Lady Michelle Obama who also declined to wear a headscarf when visiting the Arab country last year.

Ms Merkel called for the ban earlier this month while speaking to her conservative Christian Democratic Union in Essen.

Making her bid for a fourth term as Chancellor Ms Merkel said: “The full-face veil must be banned, wherever legally possible.” 

More from Evening Standard

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon