Facing up to the hijab: How different nations treat the Muslim veil

Published May 31st, 2015 - 04:09 GMT

It’s a sensitive issue and one that divides both people within the Islamic faith and outside it: the hijab. For some, it’s an expression of modesty and liberation, for others it represents injustice and oppression.

Although nowadays the hijab is most closely associated with Islam, it’s not an Islamic invention. The headscarf is mentioned in all three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Even today Orthodox female Jews who are married don headscarves and Catholics nuns aren’t seen without their hair covered.

But it’s the Islamic headscarf that garners most press. A wave of modesty and a trend of wearing the hijab - whether it be the chador, niqab or burqa - has swept across Muslim communities in recent years, but so has discrimination against Muslims post 9/11.

Throughout history the hijab has been worn for different reasons. Once it was a sign of social status, mainly used to distinguish upper-class women from the rest of society, particularly from prostitutes who were not permitted to cover their hair.

But in some regions it has been worn by farm workers, less as a symbol of their faith, but more for reasons of practicality to protect their heads from the sun.

Whatever the choices for wearing or not wearing the veil, the matter remains a contentious one. The headscarf is a complicated piece of cloth. While some countries are tolerant of headscarves in general, they are less so when it comes to ones covering the face. Then there are those countries that enforce the wearing of the veil, with punishments for those that don't.

Here we unveil how different countries treat the hijab - and the women that wear it - around the globe.

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new-yorker-cover-july-30-2007-woman-veil-burqa-bikini-nun

Last week, the Arab American Civil Rights League filed a federal complaint stating that a Muslim American driver in Michigan was forced to remove her hijab when police stopped her car. The woman was required to keep the veil off during her three hours in police custody. While the US has no ban on veils, incidents like this do make headlines.

woman-burqa-park-bench-public-elderly-freemalaysiatoday.com-2015

The UK doesn’t ban the hijab and its schools decide their own dress code. In 2014, British Muslim women were urged to wear a new “Poppy Hijab” in memory of Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during WW1, and to steer attention away from the angry anti-Islam British minority.

black-burqa-woman-shopping-cart-ichef.bbci.co.uk-2015

In Germany, there is no national law restricting the wearing of Islamic veils, instead states are empowered to create local laws on the matter. Over half of Germany’s 16 states uphold a ban for teachers, and one province - Hesse - applies the ban to all civil servants.

2-women-burqa-walking-public-street-i.guim.co.uk-2015

The Dutch cabinet banned Islamic veils in schools, hospitals and public transport. Violators could face fines up to $460. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the law applies to specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen, or for security reasons.The ban won't apply for women on public streets, shops or private businesses.

women-football-burqa-hijab-uniform-IFAP-headscarf-www.mtholyoke.edu-2015

As head of the Jordan Football Association and FIFA Asia, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein helped end FIFA’s ban on female athletes wearing Islamic headscarves. The action empowered women’s sports in Muslim-majority countries, where women would otherwise be prevented from participating in the world’s most popular sport.

lingerie-sexy-burqa-woman-cdn2.scmp.com-2015

Despite its secular tradition, the hijab is popular with women in Turkey’s conservative regions. Last year, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan (whose wife is veiled) lifted a ban on women wearing them in state institutions as part of a democratic reform package. The ban also banished in state high schools where girls can wear headscarves from age 12.

iran-hijab-young-women-public-street-dreamofiran.com-2015

Since the revolution of 1979 in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the wearing of the hijab has been legally enforced. The country even has its own ‘morality police’ patrolling the streets looking out for any dress code violations and arresting those who fail to comply.

Shame-on-france-hijab-is-our-identity-french-authorities-ban-women-sign-protest-www.barenakedislam.com-2015

France was the EU’s first country to ban the full-face Islamic veil (as well as all other "conspicuous" religious symbols) in public places. Traditional headscarves are also taboo in primary and secondary schools in 2004, but allowed them in universities. Violators face steep fines, as does anyone found forcing women to wear them.

Belgian-muslim-women-protest-demonstration-hijab-burqa-niqqab-www.muslimpress.com-2015

Belgium has banned public use of full-face veils (and all clothing that conceals the wearer’s identity) since 2011. Despite heated protests from the Muslim community, the country’s constitutional court rejected appeals to lift the ban, ruling that it did not violate human rights.

Spain-women-hijab-burqa-walking-street-public-s3.amazonaws.com-2015

Spain tackles the veil on a city-by-city basis. Citing security concerns, Barcelona bans on Islamic face coverings in municipal offices, public buildings, markets and libraries (it’s also illegal to wear a motorcycle helmet in those places!)

Italian-minister-roberto-maroni-virgin-mary-veil-burqa-ban-hijab

Despite heated political debate on Muslim headcoverings, Italy does not ban veils on a national level. In 2004, authorities in northern Italy resurrected antiquated laws against the wearing of masks, to stop women from wearing the burka and niqab. Generally, Italy accepts the Islamic veil, acknowledging its similarity to Catholic headscarves.

Denmark-young-girls-hijab-uncovered-veil-bow-headban-side-by-side-www.therivetermagazine.com-2015

In 2008, Denmark barred judges from wearing all religious symbols (headscarves, turbans, yarmulkes, crucifixes) in court. The action was prompted by the Danish People's Party, which lobbied to extend the ban to include teachers and medical workers. Danish Islamophobia pressures some young girls to delay donning the veil for fear of reprisal.

Russia-women-veil-hijab-muslim-garden-park-img.rt.com-2015

In 2013, Russia's Stavropol region issued a regional hijab ban, the first imposed in the Russian federation, and Russia's Supreme Court upheld the ruling. Earlier, Chechen officials issued an 2007 edict ordering women to wear headscarves in state buildings, in direct violation of Russian law. Men are encouraged to “paintball” bareheaded women!

Sweden's-first-veiled-police-officer-hijab-www.muslimwomennews.com-2015

Sweden’s first veiled cop joined the force in 2011, five years after the ban was lifted on police wearing a veil, a kippa or a turban when in uniform. Officer Donna Eljammal told press she did not regard her traditional Muslim hijab as a hindrance but rather an asset for her career,“It’s a reflection of the multicultural Sweden we live in.”

new-yorker-cover-july-30-2007-woman-veil-burqa-bikini-nun
woman-burqa-park-bench-public-elderly-freemalaysiatoday.com-2015
black-burqa-woman-shopping-cart-ichef.bbci.co.uk-2015
2-women-burqa-walking-public-street-i.guim.co.uk-2015
women-football-burqa-hijab-uniform-IFAP-headscarf-www.mtholyoke.edu-2015
lingerie-sexy-burqa-woman-cdn2.scmp.com-2015
iran-hijab-young-women-public-street-dreamofiran.com-2015
Shame-on-france-hijab-is-our-identity-french-authorities-ban-women-sign-protest-www.barenakedislam.com-2015
Belgian-muslim-women-protest-demonstration-hijab-burqa-niqqab-www.muslimpress.com-2015
Spain-women-hijab-burqa-walking-street-public-s3.amazonaws.com-2015
Italian-minister-roberto-maroni-virgin-mary-veil-burqa-ban-hijab
Denmark-young-girls-hijab-uncovered-veil-bow-headban-side-by-side-www.therivetermagazine.com-2015
Russia-women-veil-hijab-muslim-garden-park-img.rt.com-2015
Sweden's-first-veiled-police-officer-hijab-www.muslimwomennews.com-2015
new-yorker-cover-july-30-2007-woman-veil-burqa-bikini-nun
Last week, the Arab American Civil Rights League filed a federal complaint stating that a Muslim American driver in Michigan was forced to remove her hijab when police stopped her car. The woman was required to keep the veil off during her three hours in police custody. While the US has no ban on veils, incidents like this do make headlines.
woman-burqa-park-bench-public-elderly-freemalaysiatoday.com-2015
The UK doesn’t ban the hijab and its schools decide their own dress code. In 2014, British Muslim women were urged to wear a new “Poppy Hijab” in memory of Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during WW1, and to steer attention away from the angry anti-Islam British minority.
black-burqa-woman-shopping-cart-ichef.bbci.co.uk-2015
In Germany, there is no national law restricting the wearing of Islamic veils, instead states are empowered to create local laws on the matter. Over half of Germany’s 16 states uphold a ban for teachers, and one province - Hesse - applies the ban to all civil servants.
2-women-burqa-walking-public-street-i.guim.co.uk-2015
The Dutch cabinet banned Islamic veils in schools, hospitals and public transport. Violators could face fines up to $460. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the law applies to specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen, or for security reasons.The ban won't apply for women on public streets, shops or private businesses.
women-football-burqa-hijab-uniform-IFAP-headscarf-www.mtholyoke.edu-2015
As head of the Jordan Football Association and FIFA Asia, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein helped end FIFA’s ban on female athletes wearing Islamic headscarves. The action empowered women’s sports in Muslim-majority countries, where women would otherwise be prevented from participating in the world’s most popular sport.
lingerie-sexy-burqa-woman-cdn2.scmp.com-2015
Despite its secular tradition, the hijab is popular with women in Turkey’s conservative regions. Last year, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan (whose wife is veiled) lifted a ban on women wearing them in state institutions as part of a democratic reform package. The ban also banished in state high schools where girls can wear headscarves from age 12.
iran-hijab-young-women-public-street-dreamofiran.com-2015
Since the revolution of 1979 in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the wearing of the hijab has been legally enforced. The country even has its own ‘morality police’ patrolling the streets looking out for any dress code violations and arresting those who fail to comply.
Shame-on-france-hijab-is-our-identity-french-authorities-ban-women-sign-protest-www.barenakedislam.com-2015
France was the EU’s first country to ban the full-face Islamic veil (as well as all other "conspicuous" religious symbols) in public places. Traditional headscarves are also taboo in primary and secondary schools in 2004, but allowed them in universities. Violators face steep fines, as does anyone found forcing women to wear them.
Belgian-muslim-women-protest-demonstration-hijab-burqa-niqqab-www.muslimpress.com-2015
Belgium has banned public use of full-face veils (and all clothing that conceals the wearer’s identity) since 2011. Despite heated protests from the Muslim community, the country’s constitutional court rejected appeals to lift the ban, ruling that it did not violate human rights.
Spain-women-hijab-burqa-walking-street-public-s3.amazonaws.com-2015
Spain tackles the veil on a city-by-city basis. Citing security concerns, Barcelona bans on Islamic face coverings in municipal offices, public buildings, markets and libraries (it’s also illegal to wear a motorcycle helmet in those places!)
Italian-minister-roberto-maroni-virgin-mary-veil-burqa-ban-hijab
Despite heated political debate on Muslim headcoverings, Italy does not ban veils on a national level. In 2004, authorities in northern Italy resurrected antiquated laws against the wearing of masks, to stop women from wearing the burka and niqab. Generally, Italy accepts the Islamic veil, acknowledging its similarity to Catholic headscarves.
Denmark-young-girls-hijab-uncovered-veil-bow-headban-side-by-side-www.therivetermagazine.com-2015
In 2008, Denmark barred judges from wearing all religious symbols (headscarves, turbans, yarmulkes, crucifixes) in court. The action was prompted by the Danish People's Party, which lobbied to extend the ban to include teachers and medical workers. Danish Islamophobia pressures some young girls to delay donning the veil for fear of reprisal.
Russia-women-veil-hijab-muslim-garden-park-img.rt.com-2015
In 2013, Russia's Stavropol region issued a regional hijab ban, the first imposed in the Russian federation, and Russia's Supreme Court upheld the ruling. Earlier, Chechen officials issued an 2007 edict ordering women to wear headscarves in state buildings, in direct violation of Russian law. Men are encouraged to “paintball” bareheaded women!
Sweden's-first-veiled-police-officer-hijab-www.muslimwomennews.com-2015
Sweden’s first veiled cop joined the force in 2011, five years after the ban was lifted on police wearing a veil, a kippa or a turban when in uniform. Officer Donna Eljammal told press she did not regard her traditional Muslim hijab as a hindrance but rather an asset for her career,“It’s a reflection of the multicultural Sweden we live in.”

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