KUWAIT (Reuters) – Kuwait’s new female education minister refused to wear a veil as she took an oath when the OPEC oil producer’s new government was sworn in on Monday, leading to protests by several Islamist parliamentarians.
Nouriya al-Subaih defied calls by some deputies to cover her hair when taking the oath with the rest of the Gulf Arab country”s cabinet.
“The minister must comply with the provisions of sharia (Islamic law) approved by parliament. The government must uphold the law,” said deputy Dhaifallah Buramia, who stood up in parliament until Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi told him to sit down.
Another Islamist deputy, Nasser al-Sanae, disagreed and played down the importance of the incident.
“This issue is no problem for the government. These are individual opinions. It is her own decision,” he told reporters after the assembly was dissolved.
Women won the right to run for office and vote in Kuwait in 2005 in the face of resistance from some deputies who managed to add a clause stipulating that women must abide by Islamic law.
The details of that stipulation have never been specified — perhaps deliberately, so that it may be invoked as the supposed need arises without limitation.
Subaih, a liberal who does not belong to any political bloc, is one of two women in the new cabinet. The other woman, Health Minister Massouma al-Mubarak, always wears a veil in public.