Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has dismissed as "real nonsense" a domestic political row over her wearing of a headscarf while on a trip to the Gulf.
The 73-year-old Dutch queen made her unusually forthright comment to Dutch reporters who were covering her state visit to the Middle East.
She was reacting to questions in parliament tabled by Geert Wilders's Freedom Party (PVV) which claimed she "legitimises the oppression of women".
Queen Beatrix wore a gown and headscarf first on Sunday at a mosque in Abu Dhabi and again on Thursday in Oman.
Her officials said she had acted out of respect for Islamic tradition.
During Thursday's visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the Omani capital, Muscat, the queen wore a red shawl over her hat while Princess Maxima who was accompanying her also had her head covered.
Dutch TV said that by also wearing gloves, the queen had covered herself even more than in Abu Dhabi.
The Freedom Party, an anti-Islam party that props up the Dutch minority government without being part of the coalition, described her wearing of a headscarf on Sunday as a "sad spectacle".
Wilders rose to prominence amid a wave of anti-Islam sentiment that swept over the Netherlands in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States and the murder by a Muslim radical of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam in 2004.
His Freedom Party is now one of the country's largest political groups and he is a vital supporter of Rutte's minority ruling coalition. While Wilders is not a member of the government, his party has agreed to support Rutte's administration on key votes in exchange for pledges on policies such as a crack down on immigration.
Nevertheless, jn a written parliamentary answer, Prime Minister Mark Rutte decisively refuted Wilders' criticism of the queen, explaining that when "Her Majesty visits a house of worship, the dress requirements are respected".
Reporters with the royal party in Muscat on Thursday described the queen as heaving a deep sigh, while saying she was not surprised by the row.
Princess Maxima also spoke out, according to Dutch media, pointing out that two-thirds of students in Abu Dhabi were women.
Although the queen regularly speaks to the Dutch press at the end of a royal tour, her frank remarks about a domestic political party are being seen as unprecedented.
The Dutch Labour party responded by suggesting that the monarch's remarks were a slip of the tongue. MP Jeroen Recourt said the comments were politically sensitive and awkward.
"Dutch Queen Beatrix calls headscarf row 'nonsense'" BBC News December 12, 2012
"Dutch Queen Beatrix Sparks Controversy Over Headscarf" PRI's World December 12, 2012
"Dutch queen dismisses criticism of decision to cover head during Abu Dhabi mosque visit" Dutch News December 12, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today