DON’T wear the veil, Saudi cleric reiterates on TV

Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi brought his wife UNVEILED to a talk show hosted by the media personality Badria al-Bishr

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A Saudi cleric caused massive controversy this week when he said on a prominent television program that contrary to what some Muslims believe, women are NOT required to wear the niqab (face veil) and are allowed to use make-up and other beauty products.

To further strengthen his argument, Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi brought his wife UNVEILED to last Saturday’s "Badria," a talk show hosted by the renowned Saudi media personality Badria al-Bishr on Al Arabiya’s sister channel, MBC. (Episode can be watched here).

Ghamdi, who is a former head of the Holy City of Makkah’s branch of the Saudi Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (commonly known as the Religious Police), was discussing a fatwa (religious edict) which he had issued previously, permitting women to show their faces and wear make-up.

WATCH: Saudi cleric says 'veil not required,' brings wife on to show

Read more: Our story from 2013 about the original fatwa that said the niqab was not required

As expected, his views were not welcomed by some ultra-conservatives who opted, as was apparent on social media, to attack him than to argue with his religious argument which states that Islam DOESN’T require women to cover their faces.

According to the Saudi local newspaper al-Watan, Sheikh Al Ghamdi also “received threats.”

On Twitter, some called Ghamidi a “filthy p*mp” for allowing his wife to appear on television without a face cover, while others slammed these views by saying they are disrespectful to the majority of Muslims, of all sects, that don’t see the veil as a religious requirement.

Meanwhile, some users commended Ghamidi for his stance, calling him "brave."

Following his appearance on the show, Ghamidi defended his views despite the harsh criticism they generated. He also denied that his daring fatwa stemmed from a desire for fame and recognition.

This is not the first time Ghamidi’s fatwas have sparked debate. He previously declared that contrary to what some extreme Muslims believe, Music is NOT Haram (forbidden in Islam) and in another fatwa he said that gender-mixing is actually allowed.

For her part, TV host Badriya al-Bishr, said in an interview with Al Arabiya News that despite the online anger, she thought the reactions where overwhelmingly positive.

badria al bishr
badria al bishr

“When Sheikh Al-Ghamidi and I put this episode on air, our aim was not to clash with social beliefs and established norms which were not discussed before but to create a balance in opinions within our society.”

“I welcomed this opportunity greatly, so Sheikh Al-Ghamidi authorized me to speak to his wife about this because he was very keen that she is convinced totally about her presence,” Bishr said.

Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi novelist and columnist at Al Arabiya News [her archive can be found here]. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia and her weekly show discusses similar issues within Saudi society.

Previous guests on the show, which airs every Saturday on MBC at 8 p.m. local time, have included Saudi female director Shahd al-Amin, Saudi comedian Asaad al-Zahrani and Saudi sports analyst Majid Abdullah.

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