Michelle Obama made waves this week with her decision to not wear headscarf during her visit to Saudi Arabia. Although reactions to her decision were mixed, the reaction on social media gave birth to a hashtag accusing the first lady of immodesty—a heady violation in one of the few remaining countries requiring women to cover their heads in public.
On Twitter, Saudis used a hashtag that translates to “#Michelle_Obama_Immodest” or “#Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled” to chastise the first lady for being disrespectful to Saudi traditions.
Some on Twitter noted that Obama had covered her hair during a visit to a mosque in Indonesia and wondered why she hadn’t done the same, Egypt’s Ahram Online noted, while one woman urged fellow Saudis not to “make Obama angry at us.”
The first lady’s office had no comment on her attire.
Twitter is still chirping about it:
She should be able to wear whatever. She's First Lady of a free country pic.twitter.com/z8PcSyTZZM
— Scott (@NorthCounty3303) January 28, 2015
— #Justice4Serena (@WORLDEMPATH) January 28, 2015
So Michelle obama has respect for some and not others. Booo
— Rima Youssef (@Rima_youssef) January 28, 2015
I am Saudi woman and I think her outfit is not offending . On the contrary she looks beautifully modest. #ميشيل_أوباما_سفور
— Khawla Asad (@Khawlasad) January 28, 2015
I think so too, Khawla.
This isn’t an unprecedented move by the First Lady. During their trips to Saudi Arabia, neither Hillary Clinton nor Laura Bush opted to don a head scarf. (Technically, the modesty rules people are having such a hard time with here don’t apply to visitors.) But, as the Washington Post notes, “in Saudi Arabia, the simple act of not covering your head can be political, intentionally or not.”
This is so significant, and I’m proud of her for not doing what I think most of us, if we were honest, probably expected her to do. Saudi Arabia has found its terrible human rights record thrown into the spotlight most recently over the persecution of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who dared to criticize the Saudi clerics. The world is not impressed with Saudi Arabia’s draconian culture, and with her refusal to cover her head, the first lady indicated in a very visible way that neither is she.
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