by Ezinne Ajoku
News making the rounds is that Melania Trump rejected Saudi Kingdom’s directive to wear a headscarf, as custom dictates that women should, on her visit to the oil rich country.
— The Independent (@Independent) May 20, 2017
American media is flagellating Trump for allowing his wife do what he criticised Michelle Obama for doing during Obama’s condolence visit to the region in 2015.
Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted.We have enuf enemies
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2015
Perhaps Trump did not know or didn’t care to know at the time that it is not required for visiting dignitaries to adorn the headscarf.
On social media, Americans are reminding Trump of his hypocrisy.
Fixed your tweet for 2017 pic.twitter.com/dq1Wnm07KN
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 20, 2017
Another camp has taken time to broadcast that Melania is different from Michelle and Hillary because she’s been gutsy enough to stand up to intolerance or male domination by leaving her hair uncovered, even though she was required to. Pictures showing Michelle and Hillary wearing headscarves side by side Melania sell this narrative.
Well done to Melania Trump for not kowtowing to the sexist regime of Saudi Arabia. P.S. Did the Saudis noitice the sky did not fall in?
— Lee Hurst (@2010LeeHurst) May 20, 2017
— Deplorables4Trump?? (@lbrot1) May 19, 2017
The problem is, this is fake news at its best.
First of all, neither Michelle Obama nor Hillary Clinton donned hairscarves in Saudi Arabia. They, too, left their hair uncovered.
The Washington Post dubbed Michelle Obama’s decision “a bold political statement” at the time.
In fact, there has been a tradition of past U.S First Ladies going bare headed in Saudi Arabia. Laura Bush did same when she visited the Kingdom in 2006.
Moreover, the pictures circulating of Michelle and Hillary wearing headscarves were actually taken in Indonesia and Pakistan respectively.
Secondly, it is not a requirement for foreign visitors to wear a head scarf. According to Asma Uddin, director of strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, Saudi Arabia’s dress code is technically unenforceable against foreigners.
Earlier this year, British prime minister Theresa May and German chancellor Angela Merkel also went without head coverings in Saudi Arabia, showing how common it is for high-level female visitors to skip wearing a headscarf or an abaya.
Aljazeera sums it up succinctly with this educational video.
First Lady Melania Trump didn't wear a headscarf in Saudi Arabia, and guess what?
She didn't have to. pic.twitter.com/94NrXKAlTB
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 21, 2017
So quit the political grandstanding, there’s nothing special about Melania going bare headed.