Did Michelle Obama Make A Statement in Saudi Arabia By Not Wearing A Headscarf? Probably Not.

Did Michelle Obama Make A Statement In Saudi Arabia By Not Wearing a Headscarf? Probably Not

There was a bit of hoopla over First Lady Michelle Obama’s choice not to wear a headscarf when she joined President Barack Obama for a condolence visit to the new Saudi leader, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Republican Senator Ted Cruz praised the first lady for “taking a stand” by not adhering to Saudi customs.

Cruz tweeted the following.

Nice sentiment, but was it warranted?

Maybe Cruz felt it necessary to defend the first lady’s honor because of negative tweets regarding her lack of head scarf. One of the hashtags was #Michelle_Obama_Unveiled.

On the featured article pic, it looks as though everyone is getting along as the Obamas were greeted at the King Riyadh Airport by Saudi royals. It seems as though no one was shocked that Michelle Obama wasn’t wearing a headscarf.

Here’s a former first lady, without a headscarf, in Saudi Arabia.

Former first lady Laura Bush inside the Royal Terminal at the Riyadh-King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2008.
Former first lady Laura Bush inside the Riyadh-King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2008.

When the president and the first lady visited King Salman, he shook hands with Michelle Obama just as his predecessor shook hands with other women, including former First Lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Saudi custom forbids men to touch women who are not relatives, but exceptions are made for foreign dignitaries.

Below, the dignitary happens to be a woman, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with members of Saudi royal family, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2012.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with members of Saudi royal family, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2012.

The German chancellor dared to go bareheaded too.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Saudi King Abdullah, in 2007, at the Royal Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Saudi King Abdullah, in 2007, at the Royal Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Part of the controversy is that Michelle Obama wore a headscarf in Indonesia — but not in Saudi Arabia. If she had worn a headscarf in Saudi Arabia, there would have been negative talk about that too. What’s the saying? Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

What the first lady wore in the above video is an Indonesian kerudung, and perhaps it was because she was visiting a mosque.

Michelle Obama likely wasn’t making a statement in Saudi Arabia by not wearing a headscarf, and the brouhaha was just a lot of noise.

[Images: Fortune, New York Times, Times of Israel, Columbian, and Rediff]

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