ThysdrusRoman Coliseum of El-Jem

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Location: Tunis, Tunisia, Tunisia

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Look At The Wearing Of Veils Across The Muslim World

Via The Associated Press:

EGYPT: An estimated 70-80 percent of Egyptian Muslim women wear a headscarf, and an increasing number also wear the face veil, or niqab, although the overall number wearing the niqab remains small. The secular government does not encourage the wearing of scarves or veils worried they are a sign of Islamic exremist political opposition. Disputes on the issue can be sharp.

SAUDI ARABIA: All women are required to wear a full black cloak, called an abaya, and a headscarf. Saudi women are also expected to wear a face veil. They can be harassed by religious police, supported by the government, if they do not. Despite that, more women have stopped wearing the face veil in parts of the country.

IRAN: Women in this overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim nation wear a headscarf in public and many also wear a cloak called a chador. Laws in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution require women to cover their hair and wear clothes that hide their shapes. Most women do not, however, cover their faces.

IRAQ: Many women wear a headscarf and others wear a full face veil although secular women are often unveiled. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a Shiite-dominated government, armed men have sometimes forced women to cover their heads in parts of the country, or face punishment. In some areas of the heavily Shiite south, even Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves.

KUWAIT: The face veil, or niqab, traditionally was worn by Bedouin women here, but in the last decade, it has become identified with Islamic fundamentalists. Its use is markedly up, especially among college students studying law and Islamic law. The use of headscarves also is up, including among school girls around the age of 10. In the years after Kuwait's 1991 liberation from Iraq, the niqab was an issue between liberal lawmakers and religious extremists, but it has since faded away from public debate although disputes flare occasionally.

LEBANON: The wearing of headscarves has risen since the 1980s, even though Lebanon is generally more liberal than other Mideast countries and also has larger Christian and secular communities. Women who support Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group, wear headscarves generally and some wear the Iranian-style chador, which covers the hair and body but not the face or hands.

SYRIA: The wearing of headscarves is up, even though the government of this majority Sunni country remains secular. Only a small number, however, wear the face veil, or niqab. One leading cleric, Sheik Salah Keftaro, has said that the niqab is foreign to Syria but that those who wish to wear it will not be harassed.

JORDAN: Many women wear the headscarf, and conservative women are often required by their families to wear it, or encourage others to wear it. But the issue has not become a raging public debate. Jordan's Queen Rania, who does not wear a headscarf, told U.S. talk show host Oprah in a recent appearance that women in Jordan were free to choose.

TUNISIA: This tiny north African country has banned headscarves in many public places since the 1980s worried about about Islamic opposition to its secular government. In mid-October, authorities launched another public campaign against the scarf with top officials calling it sectarian. Despite the ban, the use of headscarves has risen in recent years. (I wonder what's the reason behind singling Tunisia out as "This tiny north african country"...)

MALAYSIA: Headscarves, called the tudung, began coming into vogue about 15 years ago as part of an Islamic revival, and there now is family and societal pressure on women, including university students and women in rural and conservative areas, to wear the scarf to show they are good Muslims. Almost all women government ministers also wear headscarves. But Malay women do not wear face veils. Malaysia is about 60 percent Muslim.

INDONESIA: Headscarf use also is up in Indonesia, as part of a larger trend toward Islamization overall. Very few women, however, wear full veils covering the face. Indonesia is a secular nation with the world's largest Muslim population some 190 million people. Former dictator Suharto, who was forced from power in 1998, saw Islamic political parties as a threat and for years banned civil servants and school children from wearing scarves. But since his ouster, more than 20 local governments have issued Islamic law-inspired bylaws encouraging their use, and one province, Aceh, has made it mandatory. Officers can pull over women if their heads are uncovered.

TURKEY: Headscarves are banned in all government offices and institutions, but there has been some unofficial relaxation of the ban under governments led by Islamic-oriented parties in recent years. There has been a noticeable increase, since then, in the number of women wearing headscarves in Turkey's main cities, Istanbul and Ankara.


Blogger cerebrator said...

This is quite an eye-opener for me.
it was only until recently that i realized there were Muslim majority states banning headscarves.

thx for the post.

I guess it's true that many have argued the issues of headscarves and niqaab as more political than religious.

such a shame.

Personally, i think it is an obligation upon all Muslim women. Not the niqaab though. but the issue should not be political. the state should not enforce laws regarding headscarves, except perhaps Mecca and other Hajj sites.

But ultimately, Headscarves are secondary issues and what's more important is how we carry ourselves as Muslims; how we morally behave in public.

Allah knows best.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I visited Malaysia when I was just a sweet young thing in 1981, and very few women wore headscarves. I have just been there again, two months ago, and headscarves amongst the indignenous Malay Muslim women is almost universal. But women of Chinese racial origin do not wear them.

5:05 AM  

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