World

Saudi women need not wear abaya robes: senior cleric

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 per cent 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.

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

Saudi Arabia 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.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently introduced a series of reforms in favour of women as the kingdom prepares for a post-oil era.- AFP