Dr. Haya Al Awad, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Minister for Girls’ Education, sparked a heated Twitter debate among Saudis after she appeared in public without her niqab earlier last week.

According to Gulf News, no details were provided about Al Awad’s decision to remove the face veil but her personal choice to do so was heavily criticized by many who unjustly attacked the minister.

Amid the intense backlash, many have come to the Deputy Minister's defense, including a few Saudi clerics who said the niqab isn't compulsory in Islam and it's a matter still open to research and discussion.

However, the issue is still making the rounds online with many commenting on it via a now-viral hashtag

The news sparked a heated debate on social media

Many harshly commented on Al Awad's decision, saying that because she holds a public government position, her move will affect Saudi girls and women, especially students who see her as a role model. 

Not everyone attacked the Deputy Minister though, many defended her and also hailed her decision, deeming it brave and courageous.

Some commented with offensive tweets like this...

"Is this what you call an educator? May God fail her." 

And this...

"If Haya Al Awad decided to lift her face veil, Ayesha refused to do so.  Liberals and revolutionaries are trying to create a new religion for us."

"Dear Saudi woman, don't compare yourself to Haya Al Awad"

"Remember that your modesty isn't only to please God but is also a symbol of your firm belief in his teachings. It also affects those around you as you're a role model to many even if you don't realize that."

Not everyone attacked the Deputy Minister though

"Regardless of my opinion over what she did, the offensive statements targeting her have truly pained me. This is shameful and it's certainly not what our prophet asked of you."

"Dr. Awad practiced her personal freedom and that's her right"

"Her action is an example of courage in the face of illusions." 

"Whoever wants to wear the niqab is free to wear it, and whoever doesn't isn't obliged to"

The Niqab and Burqa... controversial face veils

There have always been differing opinions among Muslim scholars when it comes to the face veil. While most believe it is not obligatory, some think it is.

Speaking to ABC News Australia, Dr. Raihan Ismail, a lecturer in Middle East Politics and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, clarified a few points about the controversial face veil.

"The Qur'an does not explicitly say you have to cover yourself in this manner," she explained.

"Some scholars argue that it is a religious obligation, particularly the more conservative factions within the Muslim world. There are many variations and interpretations," she added.

When asked why women would choose to wear any kind of veil, including the niqab (full body covering with a slit for the eyes) or the burqa (full body covering with mesh over the eyes), Dr. Ismail said:

"Some women wear it because they strongly believe it is their religious obligation."

She also conceded that others "may be pressured into covering themselves."