Full-length robes not a must for Saudi women: Cleric

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Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq, who is a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, revealed this week his belief that dressing modestly did not need to mean wearing an abaya by law.

Sheikh Mutlaq on Friday mentioned that more than ninety percent religious Muslim women of the Muslim world do not wear abayas, hence we should also not force anyone to wear an abaya. Activists have blasted the country's guardianship system, which requires a male family member to grant permission for a woman to study overseas, travel and other activities.

Sheikh Mutlaq's statement prompted various reactions on social media.

Recently, the kingdom has seen many changes under Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious post-oil economic plan which aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.

"The abaya is a matter of tradition in one of our regions and has become applicable to all".

"Even if one hundred fatwas have been issued, I swear to God I will never leave my abaya". If a woman chooses to cover her head, shoulders or otherwise with an abaya, that would be fine. An announcement was made that women would be granted the right to drive in September.

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Since making the ignorant and controversial comment, thousands took to various social media platforms to express their discomfort and anger.

Last month, women were allowed to watch football in stadiums in some cities, and a driving ban was lifted previous year, but women are still unable to do many things without their male guardian's permission.

It has also been reported this week that the kingdom's Public Prosecution will begin hiring Saudi women as investigative officers. Last year, however, a woman was interrogated by police - she was released later and not charged - after a brief Snapchat video of her wearing a short skirt and midriff top was seen online. The first cinemas are expected to open in March this year.

Up until now, such sports and entertainment venues have been men-only areas.

Women in Saudi Arabia could be coming out into the open just a little more.

"Breaking: Saudi Arabia still an autocratic repressive state that is now killing Yemenis and uses cosmetic changes to improve its image", tweeted Linah Alsaafin, producer for Al Jazeera English.

This has helped create one of the most gender unequal countries in the Middle East.

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