Hijab by country

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A map of countries with a burqa ban. Map current as of 2018

The word hijab refers to both the head-covering traditionally worn by some Muslim women and Islamic styles of dress in general.

The garment has different legal and cultural status in various countries. In the Indonesian Aceh province, women are required to wear the hijab[1] and all women are required to do so in Iran.[2]

France has banned overt religious symbols, including many religious head coverings, in public schools and universities or government buildings.[3] Kosovo (since 2009),[4] Azerbaijan (since 2010[5]), Tunisia (since 1981,[6] partially lifted in 2011) and Turkey (gradually lifted)[7][8] are the only Muslim-majority countries which have banned the hijab in public schools and universities or government buildings, while Syria banned face veils in universities from July 2010.[9] In other Muslim states such as Morocco,[10] there have been complaints of restriction or discrimination against women who wear the hijab. The hijab in these cases is seen as a sign of political Islam or fundamentalism against secular government.[citation needed]

Islamic dress, notably the variety of headdresses worn by Muslim women, has become a prominent symbol of the presence of Islam in western Europe. In several countries this adherence to hijab has led to political controversies and proposals for a legal ban. Laws have been passed in France and Belgium to ban face-covering clothing, popularly described as the "burqa ban", although it does not only apply to the Afghan-model burqa.

Other countries are debating similar legislation, or have more limited prohibitions. Some of them apply only to face-covering clothing such as the burqa, boushiya, or niqāb, while other legislation pertains to any clothing with an Islamic religious symbolism such as the khimar, a type of headscarf. (Some countries already have laws banning the wearing of masks in public, which can be applied to veils that conceal the face). The issue has different names in different countries, and "the veil" or "hijab" may be used as general terms for the debate, representing more than just the veil itself, or the concept of modesty embodied in hijab.

Although the Balkans and Eastern Europe have indigenous Muslim populations, most Muslims in western Europe are members of immigrant communities. The issue of Islamic dress is linked with issues of immigration and the position of Islam in Western Europe.

There are currently 13 nations that have banned the burqa (not to be confused with the hijab), including Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Tajikistan, Latvia,[11] Bulgaria,[12] Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Netherlands,[13] China[14] and Morocco.

Europe[edit]

Europe Burqa Bans. Map current as of 2018
  National ban – country bans women from wearing full-face veils in public
  Local ban – cities or regions ban full-face veils
  Partial ban – government bans full-face veils in some locations

European Commissioner Franco Frattini said in November 2006, that he did not favour a ban on the burqa.[15] This is apparently the first official statement on the issue of prohibition of Islamic dress from the European Commission, the executive of the European Union.

Islamic dress is also seen as a symbol of the existence of parallel societies, and the failure of integration: in 2006 British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the face veil as a "mark of separation".[16] Proposals to ban hijab may be linked to other related cultural prohibitions: the Dutch politician Geert Wilders proposed a ban on hijab, on Islamic schools, the Quran, on new mosques, and on non-western immigration.

In France and Turkey, the emphasis is on the secular nature of the state, and the symbolic nature of the Islamic dress. In Turkey, bans previously applied at state institutions (courts, civil service) and in state-funded education, but were progressively lifted during the tenure of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In 2004, France passed a law banning "symbols or clothes through which students conspicuously display their religious affiliation" (including hijab) in public primary schools, middle schools, and secondary schools,[3] but this law does not concern universities (in French universities, applicable legislation grants students freedom of expression as long as public order is preserved[17]). These bans also cover Islamic headscarves, which in some other countries are seen as less controversial, although law court staff in the Netherlands are also forbidden to wear Islamic headscarves on grounds of 'state neutrality'.

An apparently less politicised argument is that in specific professions (teaching), a ban on "veils" (niqab) is justified, since face-to-face communication and eye-contact is required. This argument has featured prominently in judgments in Britain and the Netherlands, after students or teachers were banned from wearing face-covering clothing.[citation needed]

Public and political response to such prohibition proposals is complex, since by definition they mean that the government decides on individual clothing. Some non-Muslims, who would not be affected by a ban, see it as an issue of civil liberties, as a slippery slope leading to further restrictions on private life. A public opinion poll in London showed that 75 percent of Londoners support "the right of all persons to dress in accordance with their religious beliefs".[18] In another poll in the United Kingdom by Ipsos MORI, 61 percent agreed that "Muslim women are segregating themselves" by wearing a veil, yet 77 percent thought they should have the right to wear it.[19] In a later FT-Harris poll conducted in 2010 after the French ban on face-covering went into effect, an overwhelming majority in Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK supported passing such bans in their own countries.[20] The headscarf is perceived to be a symbol of the clash of civilizations by many. Others would also argue that the increase of laws surrounding the banning of headscarves and other religious paraphernalia has led to an increase in not just the sales of headscarves and niqabs, but an increase in the current religiosity of the Muslim population in Europe: as both a product of and a reaction to westernization.[21]

Employers in the EU may restrict the wearing of religious symbos if such regulations on appearance are applied in a consistent manner, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in a case involving two Belgian women.[22] The two women in the ECJ case were supported by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a group backed by financier George Soros.[22]

Belgium[edit]

As of 2015, Belgium has specific bans on face-covering dress, such as the Islamic niqab or burqa. On Tuesday 11 July 2017 the European Court of Human Rights upheld Belgium's ban on burqas and full-face Islamic veils. [23]

"Liebende Eltern (Loving parents)", painting about the discussion about the face-covering Islamic clothing austrian, showing chancellor Sebastian Kurz, vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and a little muslim child by Matthias Laurenz Gräff (2018)

Austria[edit]

In 2017, a legal ban on face-covering Islamic clothing was adopted by the Austrian parliament.[24][25]

Bulgaria[edit]

In 2016, a ban on the wearing of face-covering Islamic clothing in public was adopted by the Bulgarian parliament.[26]

Denmark[edit]

In autumn 2017, the Danish government considered adopting a law prohibiting people to wear "attire and clothing masking the face in such a way that it impairs recognizability".[27][28] The proposal was met with some support in the parliament and was passed into law on 31 May 2018, becoming § 134 c of the Danish Penal Code, stating that "[a]ny person who in a public place wears a item of clothing that covers said person's face shall be liable to a fine" with an exception for coverings that serve "a creditable purpose" (e.g. sports equipment, protection against the cold, masks for carnivals, masquerades etc.).[29][30] The law came into force on 1 August 2018. Wearing a burqa or a niqab in public can lead to a fine of 1000 kroner (~$156 USD) in case of first time offences, rising to 10.000 kr. (~$1558 USD) in case of the fourth offence.[31]

France[edit]

France is a secular country. One of the key principles of the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State is the freedom of religious exercise. At the same time, this law imposed public servants not to wear any religious signs during work.

In 2004, the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools banned most religious signs, including hijab, from public primary and secondary schools in France. The proposed ban was extremely controversial, with both sides of the political spectrum being split on the issue, some people arguing that the law goes against religious freedom and is racist because it affects mostly Muslim women and Jewish men.

In 2010, a ban on face covering,[32] targeting especially women wearing chador and burqa, was adopted by the French Parliament. The "Burqa ban", was challenged and taken to the European Court of Human Rights which upheld the law on 1 July 2014, accepting the argument of the French government that the law was based on "a certain idea of living together".[33]

A broader ban on hijab is regularly proposed by conservative and right-wing politicians.[34] Such a broader ban would include a ban in public universities but presidents of universities and most student unions oppose such a ban.[35]

Germany[edit]

In 2017, a ban on face-covering clothing for soldiers and state workers during work was approved by German parliament.[36]

Republic of Ireland[edit]

In 2018, Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar ruled out a burka ban in the Republic of Ireland, saying " I don’t like it but I think people are entitled to wear what they want to wear. […] I believe in the freedom of religion. I don’t agree with the doctrine of every religion or necessarily any religion, but I do believe in the freedom of religion.[37][38]

Latvia[edit]

In 2016, a ban on the wearing of face-covering Islamic clothing in public was adopted by the Latvian parliament, despite such garments being rarely worn in Latvia.[11]

Netherlands[edit]

The Dutch government parliament in January 2012 enacted a ban on face-covering clothing, popularly described as the "burqa ban".[39] [23]

Norway[edit]

In autumn 2017, Norway government adopted a law prohibiting people to wear "attire and clothing masking the face in such a way that it impairs recognizability" in schools and in universities.[40]

In 2018 the Norway parliament voted to ban the burqa in schools and universities.[41] [42]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK hijabs are worn by children from ages 6-8.[43][44] According to retail chain Marks & Spencer, the hijabs they sell as part of the school uniform will fit a child aged 3.[45]

Muslim world[edit]

Dress codes for women in Muslim countries

Afghanistan[edit]

Female art students in Afghanistan

There is no hijab enforcement in Afghanistan, but it is predominantly worn. In the mid-20th century many women in urban areas did not wear head covering, but this ended with the outbreak of civil war in the 1990s.[46] The Afghan chadri is a regional style of burqa with a mesh covering the eyes.[47] It has been worn by Pashtun women since pre-Islamic times and was historically seen as a mark of respectability.[47] The burqa became a symbol of the conservative and totalitarian Taliban rule, who strictly enforced female adults to wear the dress. Although the Taliban regime ended in 2001, some women continue to wear it out of security concerns or as a cultural practice.[48][49][47] Opposers to the burqa claim it is not Islamic, nor part of Afghan culture.[50]

Bangladesh[edit]

There are no laws that require women to cover their heads. The ghumta, commonly worn by elderly women in rural and urban areas, is a loose hair-covering using the achal of the saree. The hijab veil, separate from the saree, has been gaining popularity in recent years, and worn by some women in urban areas.

Egypt[edit]

Gamal Abdel Nasser laughing at the Muslim Brotherhood for suggesting in 1953 that women should be required to wear the hijab
Niqab in Egypt.

In 1953 Egyptian leader President Gamal Abdel Nasser was told by the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood that they wanted to enforce the wearing of the hijab, to which Nasser responded, "Sir, I know you have a daughter in college - and she doesn't wear a headscarf or anything! Why don't you make her wear the headscarf? So you can't make one girl, your own daughter, wear it, and yet you want me to go and make ten million women wear it?"

The veil gradually disappeared in the following decades, so much so that by 1958 an article by the United Press (UP) stated that "the veil is unknown here."[51] However, the veil has been having a resurgence since the 1970s, concomitant with the global revival of Muslim piety. According to The New York Times, as of 2007 about 90 percent of Egyptian women currently wear a headscarf.[52]

Small numbers of women wear the niqab. The secular government does not encourage women to wear it, fearing it will present an Islamic extremist political opposition. In the country, it is negatively associated with Salafist political activism.[53][54] There has been some restrictions on wearing the hijab by the government, which views hijab as a political symbol. In 2002, two presenters were excluded from a state run TV station for deciding to wear hijab on national television.[55] The American University in Cairo, Cairo University and Helwan University attempted to forbid entry to niqab wearers in 2004 and 2007.[56][57][58]

Egyptian storekeeper in Cairo wearing a hijab

Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, issued a fatwa in October 2009 arguing that veiling of the face is not required under Islam. He had reportedly asked a student to take off her niqab when he spotted her in a classroom, and he told her that the niqab is a cultural tradition without Islamic importance.[53] It is widely believed that the hijab is becoming more of a fashion statement than a religious one in Egypt, with many Egyptian women, influenced by social peer pressure, wearing colorful, stylish head scarves along with western style clothing. Government bans on wearing the niqab on college campuses at the University of Cairo and during university exams in 2009 were overturned later.[59][60][61][62] Minister Hany Mahfouz Helal met protests by some human rights and Islamist groups.

In 2010, Baher Ibrahim of The Guardian criticized the increasing trend for pre-pubescent girls in Egypt to wear the hijab.[63]

Many Egyptians in the elite are opposed to hijab, believing it harms secularism. By 2012 some businesses had established bans on veils, and Egyptian elites supported these bans.[64]

In 2016 and 2017 the Government of Egypt and parliament made moves to ban the burqa with leading politicians arguing the full-face veil is neither an Islamic tradition, nor required in the Koran.[65]

The Gambia[edit]

In the Gambia, only a small minority of women wear the hijab. The Gambia is an Islamic country but does not enforce the wearing of the hijab.

Indonesia[edit]

The traditional dress of Indonesian Minang women includes elaborate head-covering

In Indonesia, the term jilbab is used without exception to refer to the hijab.[66] Under Indonesian national and regional law, female head-covering is entirely optional and not obligatory.

In 2008, Indonesia had the single largest global population of Muslims. However, the Indonesian Constitution of Pancasila provides equal government protection for six state-sanctioned religions (namely Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism), without any one supreme or official state religion.

Women Islamic street fashion in Bandung

Some women may choose to wear a headscarf to be more "formal" or "religious", such as the jilbab or kerudung (a native tailored veil with a small, stiff visor). Such formal or cultural Muslim events may include official governmental events, funerals, circumcision (sunatan) ceremonies or weddings. However, wearing Islamic attire to Christian relatives' funerals and weddings and entering the church is quite uncommon.

Culturally to the Javanese majority, plain, Saudi-style hijab, the niqab or socially worse yet the indigenous peasant kerudung (known in North Sumatran languages as tudung) is considered vulgar, low-class and a faux pas – the traditional Javanese hijab are transparent, sheer, intricately brocaded or embroidered fine silk or lace tailored to match either their sarung or kebaya blouse.

Young girls may also elect to wear the hijab publicly to avoid unwanted low-class male attention and molestation and thus display their respectability as "good Muslim girls": that is, they are not "easy" conquests.[67] Additionally, Islamic private school uniform code dictate that female students must wear the jilbab (commonly white or blue-grey, Indonesia's national secondary school colours), in addition to long-sleeved blouse and ankle-length skirt. Islamic schools must by law provide access to Christians (and vice versa Catholic and Protestant schools allow Muslim students) and it is to be worn by Christian students who attend Muslim school, and its use by Muslim students is not objected to in Christian schools.

Many nuns refer to their habit as a jilbab, perhaps out of the colloquial use of the term to refer to any religious head covering.

The sole exception where jilbab is mandatory is in Aceh Province, under Islamic Sharia-based Law No 18/2001, granting Aceh special autonomy and through its own Regional Legislative body Regulation Nr. 5/2001, as enacted per Acehnese plebiscite (in favour). This Acehnese Hukum Syariah and the reputedly over-bearing "Morality Police" who enforce its (Aceh-only) mandatory public wearing are the subject of fierce debate, especially with regard to its validity vis-a-vis the Constitution among Acehnese male and female Muslim academics, Acehnese male and female politicians and female rights advocates.

Female police officers are not allowed to wear hijab, except in Aceh. But since 25 March 2015, based on Surat Keputusan Kapolri Nomor:Kep/245/II/2015 female police officers can now wear hijab if they want. Flight attendants are not allowed to wear hijab except during flights to the Middle East.

Compounding the friction and often anger toward baju Arab (Arab clothes), is the ongoing physical and emotional abuse of Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia, as guest workers, commonly maids or as Hajja pilgrims and Saudi Wahhabi intolerance for non-Saudi dress code has given rise to mass protests and fierce Indonesian debate up to the highest levels of government about boycotting Saudi Arabia – especially the profitable all Hajj pilgrimage – as many high-status women have been physically assaulted by Saudi morality police for non-conforming head-wear or even applying lip-balm – leading some to comment on the post-pan Arabist repressiveness of certain Arab nations due to excessively rigid, narrow and erroneous interpretation of Sharia law.[68][69]

Iran[edit]

An Iranian girl wearing a headscarf (rusari)

In Iran, since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Hijab has become compulsory. Iranian women are required to wear loose-fitting clothing and a headscarf in public.[70][71]

This partially changed in the Middle Ages after the arrival of the Turkic nomadic tribes from Central Asia, whose women didn’t wear headscarves.[72][73] However, after the Safavid centralization in the 16th century, the headscarf became defined as the standard head dress for women in urban areas all around the Iranian Empire.[74] Exceptions to this were seen only in the villages and among nomadic tribes,[72][73][75][76][77] such as Qashqai. Covering the whole face was rare among the Iranians and was mostly restricted to local Arabs and local Afghans. Later, during the economic crisis in the late 19th century under the Qajar dynasty, the poorest urban women could not afford headscarves.[75] Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers, Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, p. 19, 34-37, ISBN 9780815602668</ref> In the early 20th century, Iranians associated not covering the hair as something rural, nomadic, poor and non-Iranian.

On 8 January 1936[78], Reza Shah issued a decree, banning all veils.[79][71][80][81][82] Many types of male traditional clothing were also banned in order that "Westerners now wouldn’t laugh at us",[83][84][85] the ban humiliated and alienated many Iranian women.[86][72][76][80][86][83][84][85] To enforce this decree, police were ordered to physically remove the veil off of any woman who wore it in public. Women were beaten, their headscarves and chadors torn off, and their homes forcibly searched.[86][79][76][71][80][83][84][85][87][88] Until Reza Shah’s abdication in 1941, many women simply chose not leave their houses in order to avoid such embarrassing confrontations,[79][76][83][84][85] and some even committed suicide.[83][84][85]

Official measures were relaxed under Reza Shah's successor, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the wearing of a headscarf or chador was no longer an offence, but was still considered an indicator of backwardness or of membership of the lower class.[86] Discrimination against women wearing the headscarf or chador was still widespread with public institutions actively discouraging their use, and some eating establishments refusing to admit women who wore them.[79][89]

In the aftermath of the revolution, hijab was made compulsory in stages.[71] In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini announced that women should observe Islamic dress code,[71][90] his statement sparked demonstrations which were met by government assurances that the statement was only a recommendation.[71][90] Hijab was subsequently made mandatory in government and public offices in 1980, and in 1983 it became mandatory for all women.[71]

White Wednesday[edit]

In May 2017, My Stealthy Freedom, an Iranian online movement advocating for women’s freedom of choice, created the White Wednesday movement: a campaign that invites men and women to wear white veils, scarves or bracelets to show their opposition to the mandatory forced veiling code.[91] The movement was geared towards women who proudly wear their veils, but reject the idea that all women in Iran should be subject to forced veiling.[92] Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-born journalist and activist based in the United Kingdom and the United States, created the movement to protest Iran’s mandatory hijab rule.[93] She described her 2017 movement via Facebook, saying, "This campaign is addressed to women who willingly wear the veil, but who remain opposed to the idea of imposing it on others. Many veiled women in Iran also find the compulsory imposition of the veil to be an insult. By taking videos of themselves wearing white, these women can also show their disagreement with compulsion."[93] The campaign resulted in Iranian women posting pictures and videos of themselves wearing pieces of white clothing to social media.[91]

The Girls of Enghelab Street[edit]

On 27 December 2017, 31-year-old Vida Movahed, also known as "The Girl of Enghelab Street" was arrested for being unveiled in public after a video of the women went viral on social media.[94][95] The video showed Movahed silently waving her hijab, a white headscarf that she had removed from her head and placed on a stick for one hour on Enghelab Street in Tehran.[96][94] At first it was assumed that her act was connected to the widespread protests taking place in Iran, but Movahed confirmed that she performed the act in support of the 2017 White Wednesday campaign.[97] Vida's arrest sparked outrage from social media, where many Iranians shared footage of her protest along with the hashtag "#Where_Is_She?". On 28 January 2018, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a renowned human rights lawyer, posted on facebook that Vida had been released.[98] It was not until a few weeks later that Sotoudeh revealed the girl’s identity.[99] In the following weeks, multiple people re-enacted Vida’s public display of removing their hijabs and waving them in the air.[94] On 1 February 2018, the Law Enforcement Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran released a statement saying that they had arrested 29 people, mostly women, for removing their headscarves against a law that did not allow women to be in public without wearing an Islamic veil.[94][100] One woman, Shima Babaei, was arrested after removing her headdress in front of a court as a symbol of her continued dedication to the cause.

On 23 February 2018, Iranian Police released an official statement saying that any women found protesting Iran’s compulsory veiling code would be charged with "inciting corruption and prostitution," which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.[101] Before this change, according to article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, "Anyone in public places and roads who openly commits a harām (sinful) act, in addition to the punishment provided for the act, shall be sentenced to two months imprisonment or up to 74 lashes; and if they commit an act that is not punishable but violates public prudency, they shall only be sentenced to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes. Note- Women who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab, shall be sentenced to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or a fine of fifty thousand to five hundred Rials."[102] After this change, any woman found without an islamic veil in a public space, will be charged according to article 639 of the Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which states: "The following individuals shall be sentenced to one year to ten years imprisonment and in respect to paragraph (A), in addition to the punishment provided, the relevant place shall be closed temporarily at the discretion of the court. A - Anyone who establishes or directs a place of immorality or prostitution. B - Anyone facilitates or encourages people to immorality or prostitution."[102]

Following the announcement, multiple women reported being subjected to physical abuse from the Iranian Police following their arrests.[101] Some have since been sentenced to multiple years in prison for their acts of defiance.[103] In one viral video in particular, a woman is filmed standing on top of a tall box, unveiled, waving her white scarf at people passing by her. The video then shows a man in a police uniform tackling the woman to the ground.[104] Shortly after the video went viral on Twitter, the Ministry of Interior (Iran) scolded police for using physical force against the woman protesting. Salman Samani, a spokesman for Ministry of Interior (Iran) released a statement on 25 February 2018 saying "No one has a license to act against the law even in the role of an officer dealing with crimes."[104]

On 8 March 2018, a video of three Iranian women singing a feminist fight song in Tehran's subway went viral on social media.[105] The women were singing in honor of International Women’s Day and to highlight women's continued challenges caused by forced veiling and other discriminatory laws against women.[105] In the video, the three Iranian women are not wearing Islamic headscarves. The song, “I am a Woman” calls upon women to join efforts, fight injustice, and create "another world" of "equality". The women are filmed singing while grasping each other's hands and holding up pictures of what appears to be a photograph of a previous protest by a group of women's rights activists. After the song is finished, one of the three women asks the other women on the subway train to clap in honor of "having lived and fought all their lives against all kinds of discrimination, violence, humiliation, and insults." At the end of the video, one of the protestors is heard saying "Happy Women's Day to all of you."[105]

That same day, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a speech during a gathering of religious poets in Tehran, posting a series of tweets in response to the series of peaceful hijab protests.[106] Khamenei defended the dress code, praising Islam for keeping women "modest" and in their "defined roles" such as educators and mothers. He also lashed out at the Western World for, in his view, leading its own women astray.[107] "The features of today’s Iranian woman include modesty, chastity, eminence, protecting herself from abuse by men," Khamenei tweeted. When describing the West, he said, "the most sought after characteristics of a #woman involve her ability to physically attract men."[108]

Iraq[edit]

In south Iraq, particularly in the Shi'a holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, custom requires women to wear hijab. Women in public places usually wear abaya which is a long black cloth that covers the whole body except the face and the hands, in addition to the scarf that only covers the hair. They might wear boushiya. In private, in governmental institutions and universities they can wear manteaux which could be long or short with a scarf covering the head. In Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan, women are free to choose whether or not to wear the hijab.

Jordan[edit]

There are no laws requiring the wearing of headscarves nor any banning such from any public institution. The use of the headscarf increased during the 1980s. However, the use of the headscarf is generally prevalent among the lower and lower middle classes. Veils covering the face as well as the chador are rare. It is widely believed that the hijab is increasingly becoming more of a fashion statement in Jordan than a religious one with Jordanian women wearing colorful, stylish headscarves along with western-style clothing.[109]

Kosovo[edit]

Since 2009, the hijab has been banned in public schools and universities or government buildings.[110] In 2014, the first female parliamentarian with hijab was elected to the Kosovar parliament.[111]

Malaysia[edit]

Young Malaysian woman wearing a hijab

The headscarf is known as a tudung, which simply means "cover". (The word is used with that meaning in other contexts, e.g. tudung saji, a dish cover for food.) Muslim women may freely choose whether or not to wear the headscarf. The exception is when visiting a mosque, where the tudung must be worn; this requirement also includes non-Muslims.

Although headscarves are permitted in government institutions, public servants are prohibited from wearing the full-facial veil or niqab. A judgment from the then–Supreme Court of Malaysia in 1994 cites that the niqab, or purdah, "has nothing to do with (a woman's) constitutional right to profess and practise her Muslim religion", because Islam does not make it obligatory to cover the face.[112]

Although wearing the hijab, or tudung, is not mandatory for women in Malaysia, some government buildings enforce within their premises a dress code which bans women, Muslim and non-Muslim, from entering while wearing "revealing clothes".[113][114]

As of 2013 most Muslim Malaysian women wear the tudung, a type of hijab. This use of the tudung was uncommon prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution,[115] and the places that had women in tudung tended to be rural areas. The usage of the tudung sharply increased after the 1970s.[114] as religious conservatism among Malay people in both Malaysia and Singapore increased.[116]

Several members of the Kelantan ulama in the 1960s believed the hijab was not mandatory.[115] By 2015 the Malaysian ulama believed this previous 'fatwa' was un-Islamic.[117]

By 2015 Malaysia had a fashion industry related to the tudung.[115]

Maldives[edit]

There are no official laws in Constitution of the Maldives that require women to cover their heads, but women commonly wear Hijab and Niqaab. There were reports that women were being pressured to cover by relatives, self-proclaimed preachers and newly formed political parties. There was one report of a female student who was excluded from school for wearing a headscarf, however, female civil servants wore the scarf at work without any difficulty.[118][119]

Morocco[edit]

The headscarf is not encouraged by governmental institutions, and generally frowned upon by urban middle and higher classes but it is not forbidden by law. The headscarf is becoming gradually more frequent in the north, but as it is not traditional, to wear one is considered rather a religious or political decision. In 2005, a schoolbook for basic religious education was heavily criticized for picturing female children with headscarves, and later the picture of the little girl with the Islamic headscarf was removed from the school books.[120] The headscarf is strongly and implicitly forbidden in Morocco's military and the police.

In January 2017 Morocco banned the manufacturing, marketing and sale of the burqa.[121]

Pakistan[edit]

Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, wore a duppatta scarf.

Pakistan has no laws banning or enforcing the ħijāb.

In Pakistan, most women wear shalwar kameez, a tunic top and baggy or skintight trouser set which covers their legs and body. Depending on the societal status and city, a loose dupatta scarf is worn around the shoulders and upper chest or just on the shoulder, or isn't used at all. Women are not expected to wear a hijab or scarf in public,[122][123] but many women in Pakistan wear different forms of the ħijāb and it varies for rural and different urban areas. For example, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas a minority of the women wear the full head-to-toe black burqa/chador while in the rest of the provinces, including Azad Kashmir, most of the women wear the dupatta (a long scarf that matches the woman's garments). The ħijāb together with a duppatta is becoming unpopular among the younger generation. Burqas are mainly worn in the Swat Valley and tribal areas, however, they can be seen throughout the country including in urban population centers.

Westerners are also expected to dress modestly too. Pakistani society observes traditional dress customs and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts, trousers which cover majority of legs and tops which don't show a lot of cleavage in public. In the big cities, some women wear jeans and khakis, especially in casual settings, shopping malls and around picnic spots. Dress codes for men are more lax, though shorts are uncommon. Vest tops, bikinis and mini-skirts in public are considered immodest and are thus a social taboo.[122][123]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Saudi woman wearing a Niqab.

While most versions of Islamic law suggests that women should dress modestly, Saudi Arabian dress code legally requires all women, local and foreign, to wear an Abaya, a typically black garment that covers everything except the face, hands, and feet, in public.[124][125] According to most Saudi Salafi scholars, a woman to cover in front of unrelated men her entire body including her face and hands. Hence, the vast majority of traditional Saudi women are expected to cover their faces in public.[126][127][128][129][130]

The Saudi niqāb usually leaves a long open slot for the eyes; the slot is held together by a string or narrow strip of cloth.[131] Many also have two or more sheer layers attached to the upper band, which can be worn flipped down to cover the eyes. Although a person looking at a woman wearing a niqab with an eye-veil would not be able to see her eyes, she is able to see out through the thin fabric.

The Saudi Burqa is a typically black garment that completely covers a woman head to toe, including a veil that covers her face, with a mesh window across the eyes to see out of.[132][133]

Many Saudi women use a headscarf along with the niqab or another simple veil to cover all or most of the face when in public, as do most foreign Muslim women (i.e., those from other Arab states, South Asia, Indonesia, or European converts to Islam). But there are many Muslim women, including Saudis, who only wear a headscarf without the niqab, similarly to most non-Muslim women who use only a headscarf or no face covering at all.[citation needed] Saudi women have been arrested for failing to wear a veil.[134]

Somalia[edit]

Young Somali women wearing the hijab.

During regular, day-to-day activities, Somali women usually wear the guntiino, a long stretch of cloth tied over the shoulder and draped around the waist. In more formal settings such as weddings or religious celebrations like Eid, women wear the dirac, which is a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton or polyester that is worn over a full-length half-slip and a brassiere. Married women tend to sport head-scarves referred to as shash, and also often cover their upper body with a shawl known as garbasaar. Unmarried or young women, however, do not always cover their heads. Traditional Arabian garb such as the hijab and the jilbab is also commonly worn.[135]

Sudan[edit]

While the hijab is not explicitly mandated by law, Sudanese women are required to dress modestly in public. Due to Sudan's vaguely worded Public Order law, there are no delineated parameters of what constitutes immodest dress. The law states: “Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals or wears an obscene outfit or contrary to public morals or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.”[136] In 2013, the case of Amira Osman Hamid came to international attention when she chose to expose her hair in public, in opposition to the nation's public-order laws.[137]

Syria[edit]

In 2010, Ghiyath Barakat, Syria's minister of higher education, announced a ban on women wearing full-face veils at universities. The official stated that the face veils ran counter to secular and academic principles of Syria.[138]

Tajikistan[edit]

Tajik woman wearing a Hijabs

In 2017 the government of Tajikistan passed a law requiring people to "stick to traditional national clothes and culture", which has been widely seen as an attempt to prevent women from wearing Islamic clothing, in particular the style of headscarf wrapped under the chin, in contrast to the traditional Tajik headscarf tied behind the head.[139]

Tunisia[edit]

Tunisian authorities say they are encouraging women, instead, to "wear modest dress in line with Tunisian traditions", i.e. no headscarf. In 1981, women with headscarves were banned from schools and government buildings, and since then those who insist on wearing them face losing their jobs.[6] Recently in 2006, the authorities launched a campaign against the hijab, banning it in some public places, where police would stop women on the streets and ask them to remove it, and warn them not to wear it again. The government described the headscarf as a sectarian form of dress which came uninvited to the country.[140]

As of 14 January 2011, after the Tunisian revolution took place,[141] the headscarf was authorized and the ban lifted. However, in contemporary urban Tunisian society, remnants of decades worth of discouragement remain.

Turkey[edit]

Turkey is officially a secular state, and the hijab was banned in universities and public buildings until late 2013 – this included libraries or government buildings. The ban was first in place during the 1980 military coup, but the law was strengthened in 1997. There has been some unofficial relaxation of the ban under governments led by the conservative party AKP in recent years,[54] for example the current government of the AKP is willing to lift the ban in universities, however the new law was upheld by the constitutional court.

Some researchers[who?] claim that just about 35% of Turkish women cover their heads; even though that is a low number for a mostly Muslim country. Many women wear a headscarf for cultural reasons that is not a symbol of the Quran. That cultural headscarf is used by women that work under the sun to protect their heads from sunburn.[142] This is often misinterpreted by some, who instead assume that the headscarf in Turkish research only represents the hijab and not the cultural derivation. In cities like Istanbul and Ankara most women do not cover their heads.[143] In some cities in eastern Turkey where a conservative mentality still is more dominant, more women cover their heads .[144][145][146]

On 7 February 2008, the Turkish Parliament passed an amendment to the constitution, allowing women to wear the headscarf in Turkish universities, arguing that many women would not seek an education if they could not wear the hijab.[147][148][149][147] The decision was met with powerful opposition and protests from secularists. On 5 June 2008, the Constitutional Court of Turkey reinstated the ban on constitutional grounds of the secularity of the state.[150] Headscarves had become a focal point of the conflict between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the secularist establishment. The ruling was widely seen as a victory for Turks who claim this maintains Turkey's separation of state and religion. In 2013, the headscarf ban in public institutions was lifted through a decree, even though the ban officially stands through court decisions.[151] The ban on wearing hijab in high schools was lifted in 2014.[8]

Yemen[edit]

Although there is no dress code that legally forces veiling upon women in Yemen, the abaya and niqab are considered social norms in Yemen and are imposed on girls at a young age. In some areas, the hijab has become a formal part of school uniforms. Yemeni women who choose to not cover themselves with any Islamic headscarf are at risk of facing oppression.[152]

When Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman was asked about her hijab by journalists and how it is not proportionate with her level of intellect and education, she replied, "Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times."[153]

Israel[edit]

Mannequins with traditional Muslim veil and hoods at Tira's (Israel) Saturday's market

In July 2010, some Israeli lawmakers and women's rights activists proposed a bill to the Knesset banning face-covering veils. According to the Jerusalem Post, the measure is generally "regarded as highly unlikely to become law." Hanna Kehat, founder of the Jewish women’s rights group Kolech, criticized a ban and also commented "[f]ashion also often oppresses women with norms which lead to anorexia." Eilat Maoz, general coordinator for the Coalition of Women for Peace, referred to a ban as "a joke" that would constitute "racism".[154] In Israel, orthodox Jews dress modestly by keeping most of their skin covered. Married women cover their hair, most commonly in the form of a scarf, also in the form of hats, snoods, berets, or, sometimes, wigs.[155][156]

Gaza Strip[edit]

Arab woman and man chatting in 1890-the woman is wearing a hijab.

Successful informal coercion of women by sectors of society to wear Islamic dress or hijab has been reported in the Gaza Strip where Mujama' al-Islami, the predecessor of Hamas, reportedly used a mixture of consent and coercion to "'restore' hijab" on urban-educated women in Gaza in the late 1970s and 1980s.[157] Similar behavior was displayed by Hamas during the First Intifada.[158] Hamas campaigned for the wearing of the hijab alongside other measures, including insisting that women stay at home, they should be segregated from men, and for the promotion of polygamy. During the course of this campaign women who chose not to wear the hijab were verbally and physically harassed, with the result that the hijab was being worn "just to avoid problems on the streets".[159]

Following the takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Hamas has attempted to implement Islamic law in the Gaza Strip, mainly at schools, institutions and courts by imposing the Islamic dress or hijab on women.[160]

Some of the Islamization efforts met resistance. When Palestinian Supreme Court Justice Abdel Raouf Al-Halabi ordered women lawyers to wear headscarves and caftans in court, attorneys contacted satellite television stations including Al-Arabiya to protest, causing Hamas’s Justice Ministry to cancel the directive.[161]

In 2007, the Islamic group Swords of Truth threatened to behead female TV broadcasters if they didn't wear the hijab. "We will cut throats, and from vein to vein, if needed to protect the spirit and moral of this nation," their statement said. The group also accused the women broadcasters of being "without any ... shame or morals". Personal threats against female broadcasters were also sent to the women's mobile phones, though it was not clear if these threats were from the same group. Gazan anchorwomen interviewed by Associated Press said that they were frightened by the Swords of Truth statement.[162]

In February 2011, Hamas banned the styling of women's hair, continuing its policy of enforcing Sharia upon women's clothing.[163]

Hamas has imposed analogous restrictions on men as well as women. For example, men are no longer allowed to be shirtless in public.[163]

Northern Cyprus[edit]

Muslim Turkish-Cypriot women wore traditional Islamic headscarves.[164] When leaving their homes, Muslim Cypriot women would cover their faces by pulling a corner of the headscarf across their nose and mouth, a custom recorded as early as 1769.[165]

Their head dress...consists of a collection of various handkerchiefs of muslim, prettily shaped, so that they form a kind of casque of a palm's height, with a pendant behind to the end of which they attach another handkerchief folded in a triangle, and allowed to hang on their shoulders. When they go out of doors modesty requires that they should take a corner and pull it in front to cover the chin, mouth and nose. The greater part of the hair remains under the ornaments mentioned above, except on the forehead where it is divided into two locks, which are led along the temples to the ears, and the ends are allowed to hang loose behind over the shoulders.

— Giovanni Mariti, Travels in the Island of Cyprus, 1769

In accordance with the islands' strict moral code, Turkish Cypriot women also wore long skirts or pantaloons in order to cover the soles of their feet. Most men covered their heads with either a headscarf (similar to a wrapped keffiyeh, "a form of turban"[166]) or a fez. Turbans have been worn by Cypriot men since ancient times and were recorded by Herodotus, during the Persian rule of the island, to demonstrate their "oriental" customs compared to Greeks.[167]

Following the globalisation of the island, however, many younger Sunni Muslim Turkish-Cypriots abandoned wearing traditional dress, such as headscarves.[168] Yet they are still worn by older Muslim Cypriot women.

Until the removal of ban on headscarf in universities in Turkey in 2008,[169] women from Turkey moved to study in Northern Cyprus since many universities there did not apply any ban on headscarf.[170] Whilst many Turkish Cypriot women no longer wear headscarves, recent immigrants from Turkey, settled in villages in northern Cyprus, do.[171]

Former USSR[edit]

The word "hijab" was used only for the middle-eastern style of hijab, and such style of hijab was not commonly worn by Muslims there until the fall of the USSR. Some Islamic adherents (like Uzbeks) used to wear the paranja, while others (Chechens, Kara-Chai, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Turkmens, etc.) wore traditional scarves the same way as a bandanna and have own traditional styles of headgear which are not called by the word hijab.

Africa[edit]

Women in Algeria wearing a haïk, a type of veil

Cameroon[edit]

On 12 July 2015, two women dressed in religious garments blew themselves up in Fotokol, killing 13 people. Following the attacks, since 16 July, Cameroon banned the wearing of full-face Islamic veils, including the burqa, in the Far North region. Governor Midjiyawa Bakari of the mainly Muslim region said the measure was to prevent further attacks.[172]

Chad[edit]

Following a double suicide bombing on 15 June 2015, which killed 33 people in N'Djamena, the Chadian government announced on 17 June 2015, the banning of the wearing of the burqa in its territory for security reasons.[173][174]

Congo-Brazzaville[edit]

The full-face Islamic veil was banned in May 2015 in public places in Congo-Brazzaville, to "counter terrorism", although there has not been an Islamist attack in the country.[172]

Gabon[edit]

On 15 July 2015, Gabon announced a ban on the wearing of full-face veils in public and places of work. The mainly Christian country said it was prompted to do so because of the attacks in Cameroon.[172]

Asia-Pacific[edit]

Australia[edit]

In September 2011, Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, passed the Identification Legislation Amendment Act 2011 to require a person to remove a face covering if asked by a state official. The law is viewed as a response to a court case of 2011 where a woman in Sydney was convicted of falsely claiming that a traffic policeman had tried to remove her niqab.[175]

The debate in Australia is more about when and where face coverings may legitimately be restricted.[176] In a Western Australian case in July 2010, a woman sought to give evidence in court wearing a niqab. The request was refused on the basis that the jury needs to see the face of the person giving evidence.[176]

China[edit]

In 2017 China banned the burqa in the Islamic area of Xinjiang.[177][178]

Myanmar[edit]

On 21 June 2015, at a conference in Yangon held by the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, a group of monks locally called Ma Ba Tha declared that the headscarves "were not in line with school discipline", recommending the Burmese government to ban the wearing of hijabs by Muslim schoolgirls and to ban the butchering of animals on the Eid holiday.[179]

North America[edit]

Canada[edit]

On 12 December 2011, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued a decree banning the niqab or any other face-covering garments for women swearing their oath of citizenship; the hijab was not affected.[180] This edict was later overturned by a Court of Appeal on the grounds of being unlawful.

Mohamed Elmasry, a controversial former president of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), has stated that only a small minority of Muslim Canadian women actually wear these types of clothing. He has also said that women should be free to choose, as a matter of culture and not religion, whether they wear it.[181] The CIC criticized a proposed law that would have required all voters to show their faces before being allowed to cast ballots. The group described the idea as unnecessary, arguing that it would only promote discrimination against Muslims and provide "political mileage among Islamophobes".[182]

In February 2007, soccer player Asmahan Mansour, part of the team Nepean U12 Hotspurs, was expelled from a Quebec tournament for wearing her headscarf. Quebec soccer referees also ejected an 11-year-old Ottawa girl while she was watching a match, which generated a public controversy.[183]

In November 2013, a bill commonly referred to as the Quebec Charter of Values was introduced in the National Assembly of Quebec by the Parti Québécois that would ban overt religious symbols in the Quebec public service. Thus would include universities, hospitals, and public or publicly funded schools and daycares.[184] Criticism of this decision came from The Globe and Mail newspaper, saying that such clothing, as worn by "2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman", was "Good enough for Nobel, but not for Quebec".[185] In 2014 however, the ruling Parti Québécois was defeated by the Liberal Party of Quebec and no legislation was enacted regarding religious symbols.

In October 2017 a Quebec ban on face covering made headlines. As of July 2018, the ban has been suspended by at least two judges for violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was first suspended in December 2017.[186][187][188]

With regards to public opinion, an 27 October 2017 Ipsos poll found that 76% of Quebecers backed Bill 62, with 24% opposing it. The same survey found the 68% of Canadians in general supported a law similar to Bill 62 in their part of Canada.[189] An 27 October Angus Reid Institute poll found that 70% Canadians outside of Quebec supported "legislation similar to Bill 62" where they lived in the country, with 30% opposing it.[190]

People such as Tarek Fatah[191][192][193] and Ensaf Haidar[194][195] have called on the burka to be banned.

Mexico[edit]

There is no ban on any Muslim clothing items. The first article of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States protects people against discrimination based on several matters including religion, ethnic origin and national origin.[196] Article 6 of the Constitution grants Libertad de Expresión (freedom of expression) to all Mexicans which includes the way people choose to dress.[196]

The Muslim community is a minority; according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life there were about 3,700 Muslims in Mexico as of 2010, representing 0.003 percent of the total population.[197] There is an almost complete lack of knowledge of Islam in Mexico,[citation needed] and any interest is more out of curiosity and tolerance than hatred or racism.[198] Some Muslims suggest that it is easier to fit in if they are lax with the rules of their religion, for example by wearing regular clothing.[199] Muslim women's clothing can vary from non-Muslim clothing to a hijab or a chador.

United States[edit]

The people of the United States have a firm First Amendment protection of freedom of speech from government interference that explicitly includes clothing items, as described by Supreme Court cases such as Tinker v. Des Moines.[200] As such, a ban on Islamic clothing is considered presumptively invalid by U.S. socio-political commentators such as Mona Charen of National Review.[201] Journalist Howard LaFranchi of The Christian Science Monitor has referred to "the traditional American respect for different cultural communities and religions under the broad umbrella of universal freedoms" as forbidding the banning of Islamic dress. In his prominent June 2009 speech to the Muslim World in Cairo, President Barack Obama called on the West "to avoid dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear", and he elaborated that such rules involve "hostility" towards Muslims in "the pretense of liberalism".[202]

Most gyms, fitness clubs, and other workout facilities in the United States are mixed-sex, so exercise without a hijab or burqa can be difficult for some observant Muslim women. Maria Omar, director of media relations for the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), has advised Muslim women to avoid these complexes entirely. Some women decide to wear something colloquially known as the "sports hijab". Similarly, Muslim women may feel uncomfortable around other women with traditionally revealing American outfits, especially during the summer "bikini season". An outfit colloquially known as the burqini allows Muslim women to swim without displaying any significant amount of skin.[203]

Compared to Western Europe, there have been relatively few controversies surrounding the hijab in everyday life, and Muslim garb is commonly seen in major US cities. One exception is the case of Sultaana Freeman, a Florida woman who had her driver's license cancelled due to her wearing of the niqab in her identification photo. She sued the state of Florida for religious discrimination, though her case was eventually thrown out.

In January 2017, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division in Camden County dismissed two suits filed by Linda Tisby in summer 2015 against her former employer, the county's Department of Corrections. The court decided that a New Jersey Superior Court was right to rule that it would have been an "undue hardship" for the agency to accommodate her religious beliefs "because of overriding safety concerns, the potential for concealment of contraband, and the importance of uniform neutrality".[204]

See also[edit]

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Sources[edit]

  • Scott, Joan Wallach (2007). "The Politics of the Veil". Princeton University Press.

External links[edit]

Media related to Hijabs by country at Wikimedia Commons