Saudi women shouldn’t be forced to wear abaya -- the loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of religious faith - a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body said.
The Saudi cleric who said this was Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which is the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia where women are required to wear abaya by law.
Mutlaq said Muslim women should dress modestly, but this did not necessitate wearing the abaya.
"More than 90 per cent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas," he said. "So we should not force people to wear abayas," he told a radio programme broadcast.
The statement is the first of its kind from a senior religious figure in line with the changes brought in by the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Kingdom recently allowed women to attend mixed public sporting events and announced that women would be allowed to drive.
But women still face a number of restrictions. Under Saudi Arabia's existing guardianship system, a male family member -- normally the father, husband or brother -- must grant permission for a woman's study, travel and a host of other activities.