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Abaya call for Saudi TV presenters withdrawn
December 31, 2014, 10:21 am

A proposal by a member of the Saudi Shura (Advisory) Council to impose a uniform for all Saudi women working in private television stations funded by Saudi Arabia has been withdrawn following sharp criticism from fellow members. Noora Al Adwan had seen her proposal to make the traditional coverall abaya and head dress compulsory for the Saudi presenters endorsed by the Council’s culture and information committee.

However, Council Member Saud Al Shimmari at the first reading of the draft said that the committee was wrong in endorsing the proposal, saying that it did not include a specific definition of the “national dress.” “The proposal highlighted that the non-compliance with the national dress could mean fines of up to SR10 million, yet it failed to give a specific definition of this dress,” he said. “You cannot force women to put on a national dress that is not well defined through a text,” he said, quoted by local daily Al Watan on Wednesday.

The committee withdrew the proposal, but said that it would work on it and submit it later for debate. Al Shimmari said that the proposal was focusing on marginal issues and ignored the main objective of the media.

“Any medium seeks to influence and to convey specific messages to its users,” he said. “We have unfortunately lost our focus and instead of working on that aspect, we have directed our efforts towards minor things. We are losing the main focus of our media, and this means that the Saudi public opinion is being shaped elsewhere,” he said.

Al Adwan’s proposal for a uniform was expected to face a formidable challenge from those who oppose it. The Shura member had earlier this year come under fire after she accused Saudi women working for national television channels of not complying with the traditional Saudi attire and exaggerating their makeup, local daily Al Watan reported on Monday.

Al Adwan charged the looks of the Saudi presenters gave the wrong image about Saudi women and affected the kingdom’s international reputation. Her remarks sparked a wave of condemnation from the Saudi TV presenters who rejected them as untrue, and saw them an unacceptable intrusion in their personal lives.

Al Adwan, seemingly mindful of similar reactions, did not include the female TV presenters on public stations in her proposal and confined it to the private sector.

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