Abu Sulayman posted her experience at the justice department to her 538,000 Twitter followers
Manama: A Saudi woman has stirred a heated debate on social media after she forced a clerk at the justice department to deal with her even though she was not covering her face.
Muna Abu Sulayman, wearing a hijab, walked into the department in Riyadh, but a clerk told her she had to cover her face.
“I told him that [Crown] Prince Mohammad [Bin Salman] said that covering the face was not necessary. However, when he replied ‘But the religious …’, and I told him that I was inside a public institution, ‘so please give me the required document’.
His comment was that I should not show off my face. I replied that I did not have the slightest make up on my face and that I was wearing sunglasses. The era of scaring women that they will not be served unless they cover their faces is over,” Muna posted on her Twitter account where she has more than 538,000 followers.
She was eventually given the document. “The whole transaction lasted 10 minutes. My friends tell me that it usually takes much longer than that.”
In March, Prince Mohammad said he believed that wearing the abaya (loose-fitting coverall) or hijab is a matter of choice according to Sharia.
“The laws are very clear and it is stipulated in Sharia that women wear decent, respectful clothing,” he said. “This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover … The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”
Muna later told a TV talk show that she deleted the tweet after three people from the department called her to apologise for the behaviour.
“They were very eloquent in their apologies and gracious in their understanding of my reaction.”
Muna added that it was not acceptable for any woman not to be served by clerk at any department simply because her face was not covered.
“If a man cannot accept to deal with a woman who wears the hijab but does not cover her face, he should not work in a place where he has to interact with people,” she said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Thursday. “The core idea is to follow the rules and regulations in all public institutions and provide women with all the services without hurting or denigrating them.”
Social media users were mostly supportive of Muna’s attitude and applauded her courage to stand up to “those who still regard women as second-class citizens.”
“Their job is to serve people regardless of who they are and what they are wearing. It is her basic right and she should be served without any prejudice,” the Green posted.
However, those who opposed her said that she should not have used her status as a well-known media figure to put pressure on a department’s clerk.
“She had what she wanted, so there was no need to publicise and encourage other people to behave as they want, without restrictions or rules,” Al Mawred said.