Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This is not an opinion piece, just the facts about burqas, which I - and maybe you - know little about. The word burqa (also spelled burqua, bourqa, burkha, and burka) is generally used to mean the entire outer garment worn by women in traditions that follow the Islamic dress code known as hijab, which requires that they conceal the body (although the Qur'an only mandates dressing modestly). The Arabic word burqa, however, refers only to the face cover with openings for the eyes (a veil called the niqab or purdah), with the dress called an abaya. The abaya is traditionally black and is worn over the clothes to cover all but the face, feet, and hands except when a woman is at home. Some women also wear long black gloves. The chadri (photo above) is the head-to-toe garment that women in Afghanistan and Pakistan were forced to wear by the Taliban, and is distinguished by the net or grille eye-covering. Women are compelled to cover themselves in public in Saudi Arabia, Iran (where the covering is known as a chador and may be substituted by a head scarf), Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, but some Muslim women choose to maintain this tradition - which began in part as protection against sandstorms - in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, and Pakistan (where there is strong social pressure to do so). Headscarfs are banned in some countries of Europe, and hijab is outlawed in public buildings in Tunisia and Turkey.

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