RIYADH – Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen recently stirred controversy after she refused to don the hijab on a visit to Saudi Arabia – just a week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the burka should be banned in her own country.
“Of course, I respect the customs and customs of a country. I strive to comply with such rules. But for me, there are limits to the way I adapt to the country,” German newspaper Bild quoted her as having said. “I do not put on a headscarf and I wear trousers,” the minister said.
The defence minister instead chose to wear a dark blue suit with her hair visible for the meeting.
“The right to choose your own clothing is a right shared by men and women alike,” she said, according to German news website Bild. “It annoys me when women are to be pushed into the Abaya.”
While some social media users praised Von der Leyen’s decision, her actions also sparked outrage in Saudi Arabia. The apparent lack of a response from Saudi officials in relation to Von der Leyen’s clothing was described as “hypocrisy and double standards.”
Von der Leyen is not the first woman politican to refuse to conform to Saudi Arabia’s strict dress codes for women. United States First Lady Michelle Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and former US first lady Laura Bush have all done the same.