RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A popular Saudi cleric said Saturday it is permissible for Muslim women to reveal their faces to avoid harassment in countries where the Islamic veil is banned, while deploring the effort to outlaw the garment in France.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is one of the few Muslim countries where women are forced by custom to cover their hair with head scarves and their bodies with cloaks called abayas in most parts of the country. It is also common to see Saudi women wearing full-face veils.
So Sheik Aedh al-Garni’s religious advice, delivered in response to a question from a Saudi woman in France, generated some opposition from those less compromising.
“We should not confront people in their countries or elsewhere,” al-Garni was quoted as saying in the Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat. “In case a ban is enforced against a Muslim woman there – and as a consequence there is a reaction or negative implications or harassment or harm – it is better for the Muslim woman to reveal her face.”