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A burqa (Urdu: بُرقع), (Arabic pronunciation: [ˈbʊrqʊʕ, ˈbʊrqɑʕ]a (also transliterated]burkha, bourkha, burka or burqu' from Arabic: برقع burquʻ or burqaʻ), also known as chadri or paranja in Central Asia) is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies when in public.
The face-veiling portion is usually a rectangular piece of semi-transparent cloth with its top edge attached to a portion of the head-scarf so that the veil hangs down covering the face and can be turned up if the woman wishes to reveal her face. In other styles, the niqāb of the veil is attached by one side, and covers the face only below the eyes, allowing the eyes to be seen.
Burqa is an Arabized Persian word of purda (parda) meaning curtain and veil, which has the same meaning in Persian.
In Islamic texts
The Quran has no requirement that women cover their faces with a veil, or cover their bodies with the full-body burqua or chador. Many Muslims believe that the collected traditions of the life of Muhammed, or hadith, require both men and women to dress and behave modestly in public. However, this requirement has been interpreted in many different ways by Islamic scholars (ulema) and Muslim communities. Some interpretations say that a veil is not compulsory, or that it is not compulsory in front of blind men, asexual men, or gay men.
The Qur'an has been translated as stating:
"O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their outergarments close around themselves; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle."— Qur'an, Surah 33 (Al-Ahzab), Verse 59
Another verse in the Qur'an is translated as:
"And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms (jaybs), and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments. And turn in repentance to Allah together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful"— Qur'an, Surah 24 (An-Nur), Verse 31
The correct view as indicated by the evidence is that the woman's face is 'awrah which must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body, because what people look at most is the face, so the face is the greatest 'awrah of a woman.
The fatwa also states when it is prohibited to wear the veil:
In the Sunnah there are many ahaadeeth, such as: the Prophet said: "The woman in ihraam is forbidden to veil her face (wear niqaab) or to wear the burqa'." This indicates that when women were not in ihraam, women used to cover their faces
Namus is an ethical category, a virtue, in Middle Eastern Muslim patriarchal character. It is a strongly gender-specific category of relations within a family described in terms of honor, attention, respect/respectability, and modesty. The term is often translated as "honor".
Burqas around the world
The full Afghan chadri covers the wearer's entire face except for a small region about the eyes, which is covered by a concealing net or grille.
Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, the chadri was infrequently worn in cities. While they were in power, the Taliban required the wearing of a chadri in public. Officially, it is not required under the present Afghan regime, but local warlords still enforce it in southern Afghanistan. Chadri use in the remainder of Afghanistan is variable and is observed to be gradually declining in Kabul. Due to political instability in these areas, women who might not otherwise be inclined to wear the chadri must do so as a matter of personal safety.
Among the Muslim population in India, the burqa (Hindi: बुरक़ा, Urdu: بُرقع) is common in many areas—old Delhi, for example. In the locale of Nizamuddin Basti, the obligation of a woman to wear a burqa is dependent on her age: young, unmarried women or young, married women in their first years of marriage are required to wear the burqa. However, after this the husband usually decides if his wife should continue to wear a burqa.
In Pakistan, the use of the burqa is primarily predominant in Pashtun territories along the border areas, especially in FATA and to a great extent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. However, in the remaining majority of the country, its use has greatly declined over time. However, the burqa observances remain localized and most women who observe burqa within these areas, do not do so when they travel out of the area.
Some years ago, a group of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish women in Israel began donning the Burqa as a symbol of piety. Following its adoption by Bruria Keren, an estimated 600 Jewish women have taken to wearing the veil. Keren claims to "follow these rules of modesty to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman's body parts is sexually aroused, and this might cause him to commit sin. Even if he doesn't actually sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves." However, apparently at the insistence of some of their husbands, a rabbinical authority quoted as saying "There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters," issued an edict declaring burka-wearing a sexual fetish, that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.
According to The Jerusalem Post, a Member of the Knesset is intending to put forward a bill to "prohibit the wearing of a full-body and face covering for women. [The] bill would not differentiate between Muslims and Jews".
Syria is a constitutionally secular state and discourages the wearing of traditional hijab. Ghiyath Barakat, Syria's minister of higher education, announced that the government would ban students, teachers or staff from covering faces at universities, stating that the veils ran counter to secular and academic principles of the country.
This outfit is causing debate in the United Kingdom. A senior member of the previous government, Jack Straw, asked Muslim women from his constituency to remove any veils covering their faces during face-to-face meetings with him. He explained to the media that this was a request, not a demand, and that he made sure that a woman staffer remained in the room during the meeting. A media outcry followed. Some Muslim groups said that they understood his concerns, but others rejected them as prejudicial. A poll in 2011 indicated that 66 percent of British people supported banning the burqa in all public places. However, a ban on burqas has been ruled out by the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat government and previous Labour government.
Wearing the burqa has not been allowed in French public schools since 2004 when it was judged to be a religious symbol like the Christian cross. This ruling was the application of an established 1905 law that prohibits students and staff from wearing any clearly visible religious symbols. The law relates to the time where the secular French state took over control of most schools from the Catholic Church. It does not apply to private or religious schools. This was followed on 22 June 2009, when the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, said that burqas are "not welcome" in France, commenting that "In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity". The French National Assembly appointed 32 lawmakers from right- and left-wing parties to a six-month fact-finding mission to look at ways of restricting its use. On 26 January 2010, the commission reported that access to public services and public transport should be barred to those wearing the burqa. On Tuesday 13 July 2010 the Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill banning burqas and niqabs.
On 14 September 2010, the French Senate overwhelmingly approved a ban on burqas in public, with the law becoming effective beginning on 11 April 2011. When the measure was sent in May to the parliament they said "Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place".
The ban is officially called, 'the bill to forbid concealing one's face in public.' "It refers neither to Islam nor to veils. Officials insist the law against face-covering is not discriminatory because it would apply to everyone, not just Muslims. They cite a host of exceptions, including motorcycle helmets, or masks for health reasons, fencing, skiing or carnivals."
On 29 April 2010, the lower house of parliament in Belgium passed a bill banning any clothing that would obscure the identity of the wearer in places like parks and in the street. The proposal was passed without dissent and now goes to the Senate. BBC News estimates that "Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million."
In Italy, by an anti-terrorism Law passed in 1975, it is forbidden to wear any dress that hides the face of a person. In May 2010, it was reported that a Tunisian woman was fined €500 for this offence.
On 27 January 2012, a law was accepted by the Dutch cabinet, banning any clothing that would hide the wearer's identity. Fines for wearing a burqa in public could go up to 380 euros. In October 2012, this law was mitigated by the succeeding cabinet to pertain only to public transport, health care, education and government buildings, rather than all public spaces.
In 2011, Carnita Matthews of Sydney was sentenced to six months jail for making a statement accusing a police officer of attempting to forcibly lift her niqaab, which news sources initially referred to incorrectly as a burqa. The officer had pulled her over for a random breath test and then ticketed her for a licence infringement. Matthews allegedly then submitted a signed complaint to a police station while wearing a niqaab. Judge Clive Jeffreys overturned the conviction in June 2011, citing what he thought were differences between the signature on her license and that on the complaint. She then proceeded to seek legal costs. On 4 July 2011, New South Wales became the first Australian state to pass laws allowing police to demand that burqas (and other head gear such as motorcycle helmets) be removed when asking for identification.
In October 2014, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra decreed that female visitors wearing a face covering would have to sit in separated glassed-in areas of the public gallery. Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated that he opposed this restriction. The decision was subsequently reversed.
- ^a It's generally pronounced in the local variety of Arabic which vary. Examples: Egyptian Arabic: [ˈboɾʔoʕ], plural: [bæˈɾæːʔeʕ], in Literary Arabic by Egyptians: [ˈborqoʕ], plural: [bɑˈɾɑːqeʕ].
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- Weigl, Constanze (9 July 2011). Reproductive Health Behavior and Decision-Making of Muslim Women. LIT Verlag Münster. "The obligation of a woman to wear a burqa is dependent on her age, as Moazam, one of my key informants, explained to me; a woman with gown-up children has not necessarily to wear a burqa. Young, unmarried women or young, married women in their first years of marriage, however, are obliged to wear it. In this situation a husband usually decides if his wife should continue to wear a burqa after marriage or not. In Nizamuddin Basti girls usually started to wear a burqa when they were around 16 years old and became fecund."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Burqa.|
- Burqa ban: What it means for the West – TCN News
- France's burqa ban – background by Radio France Internationale in English
- The absence of evidence for banning burqas – The Guardian
- The Islamic veil across Europe – BBC
- Beautiful Burqas – slideshow by Life magazine
- "influence of Persian language in Arabic"