Ursula von der Leyen and her entourage did not wear the hijab head coverings or the full length Abaya garment during her visit, despite adamantly claiming that she “respected” the country’s customs and traditions.
According to an Iranian newspaper, Von der Leyen said: “No woman in my delegation will be required to wear the abaya, as the right to choose one’s attire is a right shared by men and women equally.”
Shortly after her meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince Mohnammed bin Salman al Saud, Saudis took to twitter to express their disdain for her actions.
One translated tweet said: “The German Defence Minister: not wearing the hijab in Saudi was deliberate. This is an insult to Saudi Arabia!”
A similar angry reaction on twitter occurred after First Lady Michelle Obama did not wear a hijab last year.
Der Leyen wore a dark blue suit while donning the traditional ghutrah head covering.
Michael Ohnmacht, a German Embassy official, quickly tried to change the focus on the debate.
He said: “The talks between Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed and the German minister focused on ways and means to beef up Saudi German cooperation in different areas, including high-level exchanges, personally education and training, defence, mutual visits and security affairs."
Her “disrespect” towards the Arabian Gulf state comes days after Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, called for a ban on the burqa in Germany.