President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sure don’t get any slack from their haters. First, the President was roundly criticized for chewing gum during an event in India last week. Then seemingly as a way to keep the heat on, the First Lady kicked off an even bigger firestorm for supposedly violating protocol by not covering her head while they were in Saudi Arabia. In spite of all the things that could be discussed about that trip, human rights in Saudi Arabia, the treatment of women in that country, the death of King Abdullah, what ended up being the biggest talking point for a lot of people was the fact that Michelle Obama did not cover her head.
It is true that Saudi Arabia has a strict dress code for women. Saudi women are instructed to wear black robes and head coverings at all times in public. But it is also true that visitors are not required to follow those rules. And if people want to be consistent in their criticism, which of course they don’t, they would also note that in 2011 when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with King Abdullah she did not cover her face or hair. Nor did then First Lady Laura Bush during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2006 on a visit with Abdullah.
So people need to give the First Lady a break. Another interesting problem for the Obamas in situations like this is the fact that they would have been criticized no matter what they did. While I do not know the actual reason Michelle did not wear a headscarf, one consideration may well have been the material she would have given Obama critics by them having seen her wearing Muslim-looking attire. Considering one of the stickiest accusations still leveled at the Obamas is that they are closet Muslims, I can understand why they might not have wanted to have photos out there that added any more fuel for those who can’t wait to “prove” their truth about the Obamas.
Yet conservative, anti-Obama sites like The Drudge Report couldn’t resist blaring a headline like this one: “Defiant Michelle Refuses To Wrap.” Even liberal news outlet MSNBC got in on the non-controversy by reporting “Michelle Obama sends message without headscarf in Saudi Arabia.”
It is all so interesting how anything the Obamas do gets so much attention, and usually criticism. Michelle Obama did exactly what many other foreign female dignitaries have done for many, many years, and yet it is she that set off this controversy. Some of this is just the fact that these days there is Twitter and Facebook, tools that allow the spreading of stupidity at a rate never seen before, when the likes of Condoleeza Rice, Princess Diana, and Clinton and Bush, as mentioned before, have done exactly the same thing. But some of it, let’s face it, is pure hatred for the Obamas. If it wasn’t the uncovered hair, it would have been something else.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons