In this May 11, 2014, file photo, a Saudi woman seen through a heart-shaped statue walks along an inlet of the Red Sea in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. A young Saudi woman has sparked a sensation online by posting a video of herself in a miniskirt and crop top walking around in public, with some Saudis calling for her arrest and others rushing to her defense. The video, first shared on Snapchat, shows her walking around an empty historic fort in Ushaiager, a village north of the capital, Riyadh, in the desert region of Najd, where many of Saudi Arabia's most conservative tribes and families are from. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

A look at why a Saudi woman’s miniskirt sparked an outcry

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A short video of a Saudi woman walking around in a miniskirt and crop top sparked an outcry after going viral, leading to the woman being detained for several hours.The woman was eventually released without charge, but the incident and the online debate it ignited point to the tension in Saudi Arabia between proponents of its conservative, state-enforced strictures and those pushing for greater rights.

Here's a look at why the video caused such an uproar.

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THE SHOCK

The woman, whose name has not been released, defied the kingdom's conservative dress code, which requires all women, even foreigners, to wear long, loose robes known as abayas in public. Most Saudi women also cover their hair and face with black veils.

It is common in Saudi Arabia to see heavily blurred or pixelated images of women's faces on billboards and storefronts — in stark contrast to the many towering images of senior male royals displayed across the country.

In some segments of society, even uttering a woman's name in public is taboo.

High-level foreign dignitaries have been the exception to the rule. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, American first lady Melania Trump and the president's daughter, Ivanka, did not cover their hair or wear abayas on official visits to Saudi Arabia this year, though they did dress modestly.

Last December another Saudi woman posted a picture of herself in public without the abaya on, but she was wearing a black coat and a long, colorful skirt. She was detained and interrogated for five days. Her current legal status is unclear.

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A DEEPLY CONSERVATIVE COUNTRY

Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative country that is governed by an austere interpretation of Islam widely known as Wahhabism, which draws heavily on the kingdom's tribal and patriarchal customs.

The country is home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, which draw millions of Muslim around the world for pilgrimage.

The kingdom is ruled by a monarch whose power is rooted in the support of influential Wahhabi clerics. Saudi judges also adhere to conservative interpretations of the faith.

Other countries are governed by Islamic law, but none enforce the Saudi government's strict interpretation of it. Foreign women wear bathing suits on public beaches in nearby Dubai, and can be seen in jeans and shorter dresses at malls in Kuwait and Qatar. In Iran, and among ultraorthodox Jews in Israel, women are required to dress modestly.

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GENDER SEGREGATION

Cafes and restaurants in Saudi Arabia are typically gender-segregated, requiring women to enter through separate doors and be seated out of view of single men.

It remains illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Women also need the consent of a male relative, usually a father or husband, before they are allowed to travel abroad or obtain a passport.

Despite some openings for women in recent years, clerics in Saudi Arabia have spoken out against women driving and against women working jobs where they might interact with unrelated males. Most universities and schools are segregated by gender.

Most Saudi women who do work are in teaching jobs, though women have also run in local elections and hold posts in the country's top consultative body, the Shura Council.

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THE RELIGIOUS POLICE

Saudi Arabia curbed the powers of the religious police last year.

The all-male force can no longer make arrests or pursue people in car chases, though they still patrol the streets and public places ensuring unrelated men and women are not mingling.

The religious police, officially known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, ensure that both women and men are dressed modestly. Men can run afoul of the rules by wearing shorts that stop above the knee or by sporting long or outlandish hairstyles.

After the miniskirt video surfaced, the religious police referred the case to other agencies to investigate it. The woman was questioned by security officials in Riyadh.

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OPENINGS

Last month, the king named his son as heir to the throne. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , 31, has spearheaded a Vision 2030 plan to overhaul the country, including modernizing aspects of society.

Also last month, King Salman announced that public prosecution powers would be moved from under the interior minister's purview to that of the royal court, directly under the monarch. A new attorney general was also named in the reshuffling.

As part of Vision 2030, the government has pushed for there to be more entertainment for youth, allowing musical concerts that were once banned and even a Comic-Con event.

The kingdom announced last week that girls would be allowed for the first time to play sports in public school and have access to physical education classes.

Comments

  1. **** Sarcasm Alert ****

    It’s not that bad for women in Saudi Arabia according to Linda Sarsour. The woman wasn’t beaten and she was released after questioning. Things will definitely improve now that Saudi Arabia has been appointed to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for the 2018-2022 term. Add to that the public outcry and marches in solidarity over the plight of women in Saudi Arabia by the Women’s March and similar groups. [edited] Sarcasm aside, there has been progress.

  2. Muslims should have the right to live where they wish and to practice a moderate version of their religion.

    That said, Islam is a religion of absolute filth and inhuman evil. Except for its neutered and watered-down western version we see here in parts of America, it is even worse than conservative Christianity. The sickness of this religion must be countered. It must be destroyed. For instance, I would approve if those advocating violence against women and gays were to find their lives endangered.

  3. Hardly consonant with Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek, avoid a vengeful spirit, and revile not those who despitefully use you.

  4. But liberals love Islam, and are doing their damndest to bring them in by the thousands! You are a racist, bigot, etc. The ACLU and feminists defend the rights of Muslims to slice off female babies clitorises! Rapes and molestations are okay too!
    Yes, those Christians are truly horrifying, aren’t they now, with all those fgms, rapes , murders, terror attacks……. Okay, sorry to overwhelm you with actual facts that it is Islam and Muslims, and their liberal nutcake supporters, that are destroying western cililzation. Go enjoy your honor killing or rape of the day, brought to you not by conservative Christians, but your leftist counterparts.

  5. Just so you know, women and girls have NO rights in Islam. Christian countries support humanity and human rights. Yet you attack Christians

  6. Christianity is less virulent, but only because a lid is kept on it by the secular State, which is a product of the Enlightenment. Conservative Christianity does little else but scream and push against that lid, claiming their religion must be written into law. Various versions of Christianity which have state power or cultural dominance in places like Africa exhibit similar behavior to Islam – treating people terribly – the murder of gays for instance, or the suppression of women. For instance, conservative sects here already demonstrate that without the State, women would be under a cloud of further oppression.

    Thus, there is demonstrable current AND historical evidence that Christianity has at least a significant resemblance to Islam as a system that suppresses rights when it is not heavily obstructed from its cultural dominance by state action. Islam does not believe in separation of church and state. Conservative Christianity strives for such a system.

    Conservative Christianity is similar to Islam in the following respect except in magnitude: a system to create social cohesion through the strict and sometimes brutal enforcement of narrow and arbitrary social norms. This involves the creation of pariahs in society against which you do battle. You cannot stand gays and treat them like inhuman garbage. And you cannot stand atheists, which you think are out to get you. Women who stand up for their rights infuriate you. And those who do not hold to strict gender roles are considered by you to be filth to be wiped away. In your heart, there is no Jesus in your religion – just evil and criminality and minor potential to reflect the Lord you claim to worship.

    I’m sorry, but Christianity stands condemned as the lesser brother of the monster that is Islam. Should conservatives stop their pogrom against every minority they cannot stand, then perhaps we will change our mind.

    Please look very carefully at what I have said. It is not meant to be a slight. It is meant as a brutally honest observation. As a Christian, I take such observations very, very seriously. We must destroy conservative Christianity’s tendencies and its attempts to dismantle the secular state if it is to have a future. Otherwise, conservative religion of all kinds becomes the greatest source of human ruin now extant on the planet. Islam proves this. Whence Christianity? The choice rests with the leadership of each sect and also with those who are claiming to follow Jesus Christ.

  7. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. You mistake liberals for leftists. Do you know the difference? Liberals sit slightly left of center. Leftists sit far left.

    Liberals work hard to counter the Right’s desire to destroy Western Civilization by resisting the conservative attempts to join Islamic extremists such as ISIS in the creation of an ideological clash of civilizations. The result of such a stance is permanent war. Thus we work to reduce your insane hatred of your benign Muslim neighbors while at the same time working to ensure that cultural assimilation does not go the way it has gone in Europe.

    The far Left are loonies who are as crazy as the alt-right. Both deserve the same fate.

    You seriously need to stop listening to Fox news and breitbart and actually work to understand who we really and truly are. Part of the point of their work to polarize you is to point to an extreme and then paint everyone on the other side with that paint brush. It is the same when a leftist claims that all conservatives are like the alt-right and hate jews.

    You do know that conservatives are classical liberals right? You do know what classical liberalism and social liberalism is, right? Do you know what neoliberalism is? Do you know what neo-conservatism is? Do you know the different types of conservatism under the umbrella of the Republican party? Do you know the different type of liberals and leftists under the umbrella of the Democratic party?

  8. You’re right of course. Then again, Jesus killed a lot of gays, didn’t he.

  9. I’m certainly not defending acts of violence against gays or anyone else.

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