RIYADH: British Prime Minister Theresa May has forgone wearing a headscarf during her visit to Saudi Arabia.
Contrary to Foreign Office guidelines, which state: “Women should wear conservative, loose-fitting clothes as well as a full length cloak (abaya) and a headscarf,” May stepped off a plane in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Tuesday without the headscarf the kingdom favors for women.
Under the kingdom’s dress code, Saudi women are required to wear a headscarf, hijab or niqab with loose, black robes or abayas in public places, but covering one’s head is not required for foreigners.
Ms May followed in the footsteps of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama who also declined to wear headscarves during their visits to the Kingdom, stepped out bare-headed and in trouser suit to meet Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
Ms May said that she wanted to be a role model to women in Saudi Arabia who may feel oppressed by restrictive laws by showing them “what women can achieve”.
May is getting a mixed reaction on social media to the move. Some users see it as a display of feminism, while others call it disrespectful.
Theresa May goes to Middle East in trousers but no head scarf – she's on a fool's errand if she doesn't respect those whom she visits
— Elspeth54 (@elspeth54) April 4, 2017
Theresa May refuses to wear hijab in Saudi Arabia
Meanwhile, in Tipton… pic.twitter.com/vsnjckPvkO
— Old Holborn✘ (@Holbornlolz) April 4, 2017
Theresa May refusing to wear a head scarf and bow down to a mob of 7th century Saudi Arabian medievalists. THAT's what a feminist looks like
— Herr Glebe (@HerrGlebe) April 4, 2017
Theresa May hat-less – and head scarf-less – in Saudi Arabia pic.twitter.com/UQlg1kZ0nv
— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) April 4, 2017
— Søren Kekegaard (@johclim) April 4, 2017
@JasonGroves1 Yes the law is wrong and needs to be changed but until then should we not show the respect in there country as we would expect and deserve?
— Joe (@Joe2209Mc) April 4, 2017
@elspeth54 it does make you laugh when media says she's making a stand, there's no legal requirement for foreign visitors to cover heads.
— C4 (@code4uk) April 4, 2017
Defending her visit, she said: “It’s important for me as a woman leader and as leader of the government of the United Kingdom to maintain the relationships that are important to us as a country, for our security, and our trade for the future.
“But I hope also that people see me as a woman leader, will see what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions.”
With AP inputs