Long robes not necessary attire for Saudi women — senior cleric

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars. (video grab)
Updated 11 February 2018
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Long robes not necessary attire for Saudi women — senior cleric

DUBAI: Saudi women need not wear the abaya — the loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of religious faith — a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body said, another indication of the Kingdom’s efforts toward modernization.
On his radio show named Friday Studio aired on Neda Al-Islam radio station on Friday Feb. 9, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said Muslim women should dress modestly, but this did not necessitate wearing the abaya.
Friday Studio is a weekly Islamic show that discusses Islamic teachings, answers questions from the audience and issues fatwas by the show’s permanent guest Al-Mutlaq.
“More than 90 percent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas,” Sheikh Mutlaq said on Friday. “So we should not force people to wear abayas.”
While not necessarily signalling a change in the law, the statement is the first of its kind from a senior religious figure. It follows the recent pattern of freedoms the Kingdom has been witnessing with the ascent of young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to power.
Only the government-appointed clerics associated with the Council of Senior Scholars are allowed to issue fatwas, or Islamic legal opinions. Their interpretations of Islamic law form the basis of Saudi Arabia’s legal system.
Saudi women have started wearing more colorful abayas in recent years, the light blues and pinks in stark contrast with the traditional black. Open abayas over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country.
The trend marks a major change in the last couple of years. In 2016, a Saudi woman was detained for removing her abaya on a main street in the capital of Riyadh. Local media reported that she was detained after a complaint was filed with the religious police.
The Kingdom has seen an expansion in women’s rights recently, such as the decision passed to allow women to attend mixed public sporting events and the announcement that Saudi Arabia would grant them the right to drive.
These are some of the many changes the country has undergone in recent months, hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in the deeply conservative Muslim Kingdom.
But despite these changes, the gender-segregated nation is criticized for its continued constraints on women. Activists have blasted the country’s guardianship system which requires a male family member to grant permission for a woman to study abroad, travel and other activities.


Classical music trio delight Saudi audience with world premiere in Arabic

The musicians concluded their encores in Jeddah with upbeat classical versions of the German and Saudi national anthems. (Supplied)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Classical music trio delight Saudi audience with world premiere in Arabic

  • The musicians were the German Debussy Trio
  • The musicians concluded their encores in Jeddah with upbeat classical versions of the German and Saudi national anthems

RIYADH: Saudi audiences have been treated to a 10-day feast of classical music, including the world premiere of the Arabic translation of the lyrics of Schubert’s “Winter Journey” romantic song cycle.

The performances took place at the German diplomatic missions in Riyadh and Jeddah, the French Consulate General in Jeddah, the Goethe Institute in Riyadh and KAUST in Thuwal.

The musicians were the German Debussy Trio, comprising cellist Birgit “Cella” Erichson, violinist Ulrich Beetz and pianist Vasil Laghidze.

As founders of the Abegg Trio, Erichson and Beetz have over 40 years’ experience performing in concert halls worldwide. Their latest formation, with the young Georgian pianist Vasil Laghidze, is called the Debussy Trio after the French composer of the late 19th and early 20th century, who created the gateway to modern music.

The French Consul General El-Mostafa Mihraje hosted the trio’s performance of an all-Debussy concert, including the famous Clair de Lune, played under the stars. 

It was part of the worldwide centenary Debussy’s death that began in January in Paris with a concert for French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

For their German concerts the musicians performed Schubert’s “Winter Journey,” with the lyrics by Wilhelm Müller recited in German by Claudia Ziegeler and — in a world premiere — in Arabic by the Saudi poet Dr. Adel Khamees Alzhrani.

The musicians concluded their encores in Jeddah with upbeat classical versions of the German and Saudi national anthems, delighting the diverse crowd attending.