Saudi social media has been set alight with debate this morning after a video purporting to show a teacher forcing female students to leave without their abayas was shared widely.
According to reports in local media the headteacher of a school in the Sabya district of the country yesterday confiscated the robe-like black coverings from students in the middle and secondary stages of the school. They were then forced to leave without them.
It seems her reasoning was that the girls were wearing a particular kind of abaya, the “kataf”, which is worn from the shoulders, which apparently was deemed “inappropriate”. The implication was that the “ras” abaya, worn from the head, is more suitable.
The abaya is legally required by the strict modesty laws in the Kingdom, meaning that the teacher was potentially putting her pupils at risk of prosecution.
The hashtag “headteacher sends students out without abaya” has been trending on Twitter this morning, with tens of thousands of tweets on the subject so far. Some were supportive of her actions:
هذه المديرة بها شهامة وغيرة على بنات المسلمين أكثر من المصور وبعض الرجال ! ولكن يبدو أنها بالغت في تصرفها ! #مديره_تخرج_الطالبات_بدون_عباءه— ماهر بن سلطان (@maher0550) December 8, 2016
This headteacher has more gallantry and a sense of honor with regards to Muslim girls than the cameraman and some men! But it seems that she went too far in her behavior.
The apparent hypocrisy of the headteacher’s actions caught other’s attention:
So she thinks the "kataf" abaya is not sufficiently covering, so she sends them out without the abaya?! It’s about the imposition of authority, not love of modesty.
Many were critical of the what they felt was an incorrect interpretation of religion:
يعتقدون أن الإسلام أتى للأرض ليغطي النساء، ويطيل لحى الرجال. رسالة الإسلام أعظم من لحية وعباءة سوداء.#مديره_تخرج_الطالبات_بدون_عباءه— DiHmei Almutairi (@iconciliator) December 8, 2016
They believe that Islam came to the Earth to cover up women, and make men's beards long. The message of Islam is greater than beards and black cloaks.
#مديره_تخرج_الطالبات_بدون_عباءه الدين نصيحه مو فضيحه تصرف همجي ، المديره تستاهل الفصل والله وقليل عليها.— NJOOD. (@Njood__alyazidi) December 8, 2016
Religion is advice not a scandal [involving such] brutal behavior. This headteacher should be sacked, I swear.
#مديره_تخرج_الطالبات_بدون_عباءه— N (@bnt_3) December 8, 2016
وش دخلها تلبس عباية كتف والا راس
هالشي راجع للبنت نفسها
من مفهم هالعجايز إن عباية الراس هي الدين
What does it have to do with her if they wear "kataf" [shoulder] abaya or the "ras" [head] abaya? This just goes back to the girl herself. Who told these old people that the head abaya is religion? I hope she gets sacked.
One individual called for a more questioning look at the very short video:
#مديره_تخرج_الطالبات_بدون_عباءه مندفعين بالنقد والغضب دايما هل احد يعرف الحقيقة هل المقطع صحيح او هناك تصفية حسابات لا نعلم فقط نتقد ونغرد— إنسان ليس إلا (@d71500) December 8, 2016
We are all always pushed to criticism and anger. Does anyone know the truth? Is this clip true, or is there a filtering of accounts? We don't know, we just criticise and comment.
Women’s rights are never far away from the agenda in the Kingdom, with some vocal activists regularly using Twitter to call for an end to male guardianship and the ban on women driving.
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