In Summary
  • The government has not said whether it will change the law, but this is the first such comment from a senior religious figure.
  • Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, requires women to wear the garment by law.
  • Last month, women were allowed to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a game.
  • Four months ago, the kingdom announced an end to a long-standing ban on women driving.

RIYADH

Saudi women should not have to wear the loose-fitting abaya robe to shroud their bodies in public, a senior cleric said, in the latest sign of a far-reaching liberalisation drive.

"More than 90 percent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas," said Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars — the kingdom's highest religious body.

LAW

"So we should not force people to wear abayas," he told a television programme broadcast on Friday.

Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, requires them to wear the garment by law.

The government has not said whether it will change the law, but this is the first such comment from a senior religious figure.

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