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Case Study: The Burqa

Full Burqa

Full Burqa

The burqa has three parts:

  • head-covering: ḥijāb
  • face-veil: niqāb
  • loose body-covering: jilbāb

What’s the difference between a burqa and an abaya? See the Wikipedia’s List of types of sartorial hijab.

Abaya – A type of outer garment from the Persian Gulf region of the Middle East which covers from the head to the feet.

Two videos (part 1 and part 2) by a Dutch journalist; Dutch is the language of the subtitles.

Saudi Wife Shows us into her Home

Life Of A Muslim Wife In Saudi Arabia

Who's in charge?

Who’s in charge? – The Original Fashion, Beauty, and Entertainment Blog for Muslim Women

Basic how to wear hijab styles tutorial

Niqab tutorial

Bikini or headscarf — which offers more freedom?

by Krista Bremer
O, The Oprah Magazine, June 9, 2010

I watched [my daughter] kneel at the entryway to her school and pull a neatly folded cloth from the front of her pack, where other kids stash bubble gum or lip gloss. Then she slipped it over her head, and her shoulders disappeared beneath it like the cape her younger brother wears when he pretends to be a superhero.

Krista Bremer and her daughter

Krista Bremer
and her daughter

As I pulled away from the curb, I imagined that headscarf having magical powers to protect her boundless imagination, her keen perception, and her unself-conscious goodness. I imagined it shielding her as she journeys through that house of mirrors where so many young women get trapped in adolescence, buffering her from the dissatisfaction that clings in spite of the growing number of choices at our fingertips, providing safe cover as she takes flight into a future I can only imagine.

Veiled Threats?
by Martha Nussbaum
NY Times, July 11, 2010

Boy with burqas

Boy with burqas

A third argument, very prominent today, is that the burqa is a symbol of male domination that symbolizes the objectification of women (that they are being seen as mere objects). A Catalonian legislator recently called the burqa a “degrading prison.”The first thing we should say about this argument is that the people who make it typically don’t know much about Islam and would have a hard time saying what symbolizes what in that religion.

But the more glaring flaw in the argument is that society is suffused with symbols of male supremacy that treat women as objects. Sex magazines, nude photos, tight jeans — all of these products, arguably, treat women as objects, as do so many aspects of our media culture. And what about the “degrading prison” of plastic surgery? Every time I undress in the locker room of my gym, I see women bearing the scars of liposuction, tummy tucks, breast implants. Isn’t much of this done in order to conform to a male norm of female beauty that casts women as sex objects?

Burqa Snapshot

Burqa Snapshot

Why I’m proud to wear the burqa, February 4, 2010

Oumkheyr is a French Muslim woman in her 40s. Of Algerian origin, she is divorced and has a daughter. She tells CNN why she’s proud to wear the burqa, also known as the niqab or full veil, and what she thinks of the law proposed by the French government to ban the burqa. A French parliament report has called for a ban on the burqa in schools, hospitals, government offices and public transport.

Oumkheyr says:

I wear the burqa for the simple reason that I am a Muslim and the Koran says that I must wear the full veil in order to be modest. I am proud of my Muslim faith and my modesty. I am proud to follow God’s law. …For those of us who are believers, we just want to do God’s will and live by the sacred text, so what any man says has nothing to do with that.

The Koran

The Koran

I’m no Koran scholar, but from what I have read, the Koran supports Oumkheyr in only two passages:

Tell the faithful women that they must keep their gaze focused below/on the ground and cover their sexual organs. They must not put their beauty and their jewellery on display. They must hide their breasts behind a purdah. They must not exhibit their beauty to anybody except their husbands, brothers, nephews, womenfolk, servants, eunuch employees and children. They must not move their legs briskly while walking because then much of their bodies can get exposed.

Surah Al Noor 24:31

Oh nabi, please tell your wives and daughters and faithful women to wear a covering dress on their bodies. That would be good. Then nobody can recognise them and harrass them. Allah is merciful and kind.

Surah Al Hijaab 33:5

What would you do?