Word of the Day: Burqa, Niqab, Hijab

Word of the Day: Burqa, Niqab, Hijab February 6, 2012

A novel that tackles Christian apologeticsHijab is the Muslim dress code for women. It is typically interpreted to permit only the hands and face to be visible in public. It also refers to the headscarf that covers the head but not the face.

The niqab is a cloth that covers the face. It can reveal the eyes or have a mesh or veil that covers the eyes. Seeing through the veil is reportedly no more difficult than seeing through sunglasses.

The burqa is a loose-fitting outer garment that covers the body and includes both the niqab face covering and hijab head covering. The hands and face are often treated together, with customs saying either that they may both be visible or must both be covered. In the latter case, women often wear gloves.

The Arab world has many local customs, of course, and there are many variations. For example, the chador is an Iranian cloak without fasteners that is held closed in front.

Demands on men are minimal by comparison, often interpreted to require covering the knees and avoiding jewelry.

France banned “ostentatious religious symbols” like the hijab from public schools in 2004. Nicolas Sarkozy (then a French minister) justified it this way: “When I enter a mosque, I remove my shoes. When a Muslim girl enters school, she must remove her veil.” Turkey also prohibits the hijab in schools and universities. The French law was extended in 2010 to ban face covering in public, including the niqab.

A Muslim-American woman is the second-best saber fencer in the U.S. and is hoping to represent the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics, even though it will fall in Ramadan, the month when she will be prohibited from eating or drinking during the day. She conforms to hijab and was attracted to the sport because the uniform (inadvertently) also conforms to hijab.

From a Western standpoint, it’s easy to see the hijab requirement as oppressive, though from the inside it can be seen as a matter of cultural identity. A cultural demand doesn’t always vanish when that demand is lifted. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), Manchu rulers imposed queues (long ponytail with an otherwise shaved head) on Chinese men. Not wearing one was considered disloyal and a capital crime, but when the dynasty ended, many men still wore the queue as a custom.

A fascinating example of unexpected consequences came when wearing the veil became mandatory in Iran after the 1979 revolution. Protest came from an unexpected quarter—women who had been wearing the veil. Before, they could publicly say, “God is great” by wearing the veil in public. After, they were simply obeying the law.

Imagine a Christian theocracy in the West that made wearing crosses mandatory. The same thing would happen to the cross as happened to the Iranian veil—the cross would no longer be a religious statement but a political one.

I wonder if there’s something of this kind of unexpected consequence with Christian morality. Do Christians do good things just because they’re the right thing to do? That is, do they do good things for the same reasons that atheists do them? Or do they do them because God is watching? Whether God is tallying up good and bad actions that will confront the Christian in heaven or the Christian is simply trying to put a smile on God’s face, I wonder if the Christian moral motivation is shallower than that of the atheist.

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  • MJ

    A slave may enjoy being a slave but does this mean the rest of us have to enjoy the spectacle of the public display of such a heinous state of subservience to master Man in our Public Square.

    It appears to me a possible connection exists between the relative subservience of women, degree of textual construct, public displays of subservience to Man and a correlation to cultural growth of fundamentalism, feeding into Muslim violence internal/external, given these varying degrees of public displays of Muslim women’s subservience within any society – I have a feeling there is going to be a more than significant connection between the relative degree of publicly displayed subservience and attempted/actual violence against Other.

    It is important to determine how true wearing the Muslim veil, hijab, niqab and burqa is a ‘free choice’ devoid of cultural pressure to conform and the various psychological states and relative power states each relatively inform for women – also the impact on the relative level of acceptance of the subjugation of women and lessening of respect for women’s equality which may be associated with such states and if the feminist construct and derived relative power of women means such depictions of subservience should be banned from the Public Square to prevent new citizens from believing such a state is acceptable.

    So completely opposite to the cultural relativist and freedom of religion paradigm of ‘Freedom’ wearing the veil, hijab, niqab and burqa, it is my view research will find not only that the relative numbers of these garments worn, interconnected to garment type of political public displays of affiliation to Islam will be a reliable gauge and reflective of major schism in train in any society and measure of the attempted and successful subjugation of Other and women, but will also find wearing such garments are not really a ‘free choice’ at all. A price women have to pay, public displays of submission to Man’s determination, to stay safe and be accepted as a ‘true believer’.

    No cultural pressure to conform? If this was truly the case statistically Other would be wearing the same garments in the same proportion – are they? Therefore? It is a lie.

    Societies should be allowed to choose, based on scientifically derived evidence, whether or not a culture is to be allowed into the Public Square, particularly cultures whose codex contains a genocide construct of Other and subjugation of women thrown in.

    • What do you do for reform? If a group of women are so acculturated to a certain kind of dress, how do “free” them? You can tell them that they don’t have to wear something, but they might want to still wear it. Laws banning burqas or scarves don’t seem to be the way to go.

      • MJ

        The fact is in pluralistic societies one person’s actions do impact on others. As I said a slave may enjoy being a slave but this does not mean the rest of us have to put up with the display in the Public Square.

        It is not a matter of ‘freeing’ anyone there is no such thing as a Free anything.

        My perspective is this-The Muslim veil, hijab, niqab and burqa are the outward political signs of Muslims women’s subjugation to Muslims Mans Control, Muslims Mans Ownership, and Muslim Mans Power. These states of dress I believe will be found through research to inform diminished states of relative liberty, equality and justice of Muslim women to Muslim Men within a Muslim community and also inform outward signs of the degree ‘major schism’ is under way in any pluralistic society.

        Far from being a ‘good’ from my perspective such states inform ‘evil’ particularly for the status of women and must be removed from the Public Square.

        I believe laws banning hijab, niqab and burqa are the way to go, as I find the wearing of these garments very offensive to my views on the relative liberty and equality of women in Society for they inform no such outcome for Muslim women, and I do not want my grandchildren believing such a state of subjugation is OK – determining such a state as psychologically ‘freely’ chosen I believe is a false conclusion.

        • I have no rebuttal, not having thought about laws much. You may be right. I suspect, though, that there will be a lot of “Well, have you thought about this situation?” that will test your proposal.