Saturday, May 01, 2010

Are headdresses acceptable in modern society?

In our Spanish class on Wednesday, our teacher opened a debate on whether it was right for governments to impose bans on ladies wearing Islamic headdresses. This was in light of Belgium's lower house of parliament intention to vote for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public. The result of Thursday's vote was almost unanimous with 134 MPs in support of the law and two abstentions. It is therefore likely that the ban in Belgium will become law in the near future.

Now of course there are several variations on the headdress theme most of which are far less concealing than the burka. For example, an Algerian lady in our class wears a hijab and has done so since she was married as a mark of respect to her husband.

imageThe two forms of headdress that seem to cause controversy are the niqab and the burka. The arguments against these two forms of headdress are based on security which is understandable. To go further though and ban forms of headdress that do not conceal the identity of the wearer which is apparently what some organisations are trying to do seems to me unjustifiable. It’s a bit like telling a Yorkshire collier not to wear his cloth cap and let’s not forget the Queen of England who has worn head scarves for as long as anyone can remember.

To my mind we are passing through a phase of Islamaphobia brought about by world events that have taken place since 9/11 and possibly before.

image The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in a myriad of styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
image The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
image The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
image The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
image The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
image The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
image The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.

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