Saudi Arabia plans to abolish the hijab, which the kingdom’s emir and his family have used for centuries to cover their heads, and will instead allow women to wear head scarves, a senior Interior Ministry official told The Jerusalem Times on Sunday.
The announcement by Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman comes days after the crown prince and his wife, Crown Princess Mohammed bin Salman, were seen wearing headscarves as they attended the opening of the royal palace in Riyadh on Friday.
The plan to lift the ban on the hijab is part of the kingdom, which is the world’s most populous and is a staunchly religious state, and has become increasingly secular in recent years.
Saudi Arabia’s ruling family has been trying to modernize its image by implementing reforms that aim to address widespread social and economic inequalities, including high poverty and high unemployment.
But the country’s conservative clerics have often pushed for strict adherence to Islamic law, a policy that has drawn criticism from human rights groups.
The kingdom’s ban on women wearing the hijab has come under heavy criticism, with some human rights organizations accusing the royal family of perpetuating the discriminatory practices.
Human rights groups have also criticized the kingdom for its high number of executions.