Middle East

German minister refuses to wear veil during Saudi Arabia trip

Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen at a security summit in Manama, Bahrain, on December 9.

Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen at a security summit in Manama, Bahrain, on December 9.  (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)

The German defense minister has caused outrage in Saudi Arabia after she refused to wear a hijab during an official visit.

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Ursula von der Leyen and her team did not wear the traditional veil which is worn by women or the full length Abaya garment even though she has claimed to “respect” the country’s customs.

Her decision not to wear a hijab during her meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, was not met warmly by Saudis who took to Twitter to express their anger, the Express has reported.

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One translated Tweet read: “The German Defense Minister: not wearing the hijab in Saudi was deliberate. This is an insult to Saudi Arabia.”

According to an Iranian newspaper, Von der Leyen said: “No woman in my delegation will be required to wear the abaya, as the right to choose one’s attire is the right shared by men and women equally.”

The abaya is a loose robe-like dress, worn by women in Muslim countries, which covers the whole body except for the head, feet and hands.

The hijab is the word used to describe headscarves worn by Muslim women which cover their heads.

The news comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a ban on the burqa in Germany.

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The burqa is the most concealing of all Islamic veils - it is a one piece which covers the face and body, often having just a mesh screen to see through.

Speaking at a party conference last week, Merkel called to outlaw the burqa and niqab wherever “possible”.

She said: "With us, the rule is: show your face, that's why the full veil is not appropriate, it should be banned."

The CDU, the ruling party in Germany, wants to ban the full face veil in courts, schools and universities as well as in road traffic and during police checks.

Burqas are currently banned in France and earlier this year, three Muslim women who were caught wearing banned burkinis in Cannes were fined.

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