A Young Woman Defies Strict Islamic Law

Sara Ahmed

Saudi Arabia: A woman who was not wearing a traditional body covering in public in the capital city of Riyadh and put a photo on Twitter has allegedly faced calls to be executed. Islamic law is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia, meaning that all women are required to wear the abaya and hijab. The dress code for women is governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law and is enforced to varying degrees across the country. The majority of women wear an abaya – a long cloak – and a head scarf. The face does not necessarily need to be covered. Though dress code tolerance varies from region to region in Saudi Arabia, non-Muslim foreigners are usually required to at least wear the abaya and Muslim women to at least wear the hijab.

A 21 year old student from the city of Dammam, who called herself Sara Ahmed out of fear for her safety, shared the tweet of that brave woman named Malak Al Shehri. Next to the picture of the young lady, she posted screenshots of three tweets in which some people are calling for violence against Shehri. All three tweets included an Arabic hashtag that translates to "We demand the imprisonment of the rebel Angel Al Shehri." The name Malak translates to "Angel" in Arabic.

"I'm an atheist and I still wear the hijab in most places because that's how society here is it's inexcusable to remove it, in fact, many of my atheist friends have to cover their faces because their families are more conservative than mine, and it's not just atheists, many Muslim women want to remove them," Ahmed wrote. Despite this reality, Ahmed said she has seen more Saudi women with uncovered faces and even without hijabs in major cities, especially among the younger generation.

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The state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia has been criticized by international watchdog organizations. Civil liberties are some of the region's most restrictive for women and the issue has been the subject of media investigations and documentaries such as the New York Times' "Ladies First." “Ladies First” captures a historic moment for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia but also highlights the everyday plight of Saudi Arabian women, who are not allowed to drive cars or travel without a man’s permission.

This photo has provoked many people on Twitter and they posted aggressive comments, such as “The least punishment for her is beheading her” and “Kill her and throw her body to the dogs”. On the other side, other social media users have been praising the woman for her bravery and expressed their support. For example, Andrew wrote: “Bravest girl on earth. Hope she is okay”. One female Twitter user wrote "They're literally saying that 'Covering her body is more important than her life.'" Malak Al Shehri deleted her post and after that her account.

Photo Credits: Blazing Cat Fur

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