German minister sparks anger after refusing to wear hijab in Saudi Arabia

German minister sparks anger after refusing to wear hijab in Saudi Arabia
Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen refused to don the hijab on a visit to Saudi Arabia – just a week after Chancellor Angela Merkel said the burka should be banned in her own country.

Von der Leyen visited Riyadh for a meeting with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al Saud on Wednesday, but did not cover her hair for the event in the ultra-conservative state, reportedly saying women should enjoy the right to dress as they choose, just as men do.

The defense 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."

Saudi police reportedly detained a woman last week for violating modesty rules after being seen walking in Riyadh without a traditional robe and headscarf.

READ MORE: Saudi woman arrested for going out without traditional Muslim clothing – reports

A number of Saudi staff were described as being “astonished” by Von der Leyen’s outfit, according to the German newspaper.

Von der Leyen’s decision comes after Merkel said the full-face burka covering should be banned “wherever it is legally possible” during the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) congress in Germany last week.