Interpreting veils | Story: Meanings have changed with politics, history




The burka
comes in many variations, but in its most conservative form, it thoroughly covers the face of the person wearing it, leaving only a mesh-like screen to see through. This refugee is wearing the conservative burka that the Taliban regime requires women in Afghanistan to don outdoors. The burka is thought to have originated in the Arabian peninsula and can still be found there today. They are not always as conservative in form as the one shown here and often allow parts of a woman's face to show through.



The word hijab
refers to the variety of styles in which Muslim women use scarves and large pieces of cloth to cover their hair, neck and sometimes shoulders. As shown on this Seattle-area Muslim woman, the hijab often leaves the entire face open. In the United States, the hijab is the most common form of headcovering for Muslim women.



The chador
is the full-body cloak Muslim women in Iran are expected to wear outdoors. Depending on how it is designed and on how the woman holds it, the chador may or may not cover the face. The chador was forbidden in Iran under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, who was brought to power with help from the United States and sought to modernize the country. After the shah was exiled during the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the chador became required wear for all Iranian women. Many Iranians today subvert their dress-code by wearing Western-style clothing beneath the chador.



Hindu women
also wear a veil, a practice that highlights the fact that veiling is not exclusively Muslim. Traditional and orthodox Hindu women, such as this one, will cover their heads and at least partly obscure their faces in the company of unrelated adult males. Sometimes veiling is accomplished with a loose end of the woman's sari, and sometimes it is done with a scarf-like fabric known as the dupatta.



Many Pakistani Muslims
, such as this one, wear some form of veil. This woman is wearing the nikab along with a bandana that reads, "God is great!" The veil existed before Islam existed, but it has been embraced and spread by the religion. Not all Muslim women wear a veil, but among those who do, styles vary wildly, from simple kerchiefs and elaborate head scarves to full face-and-body coverings.




The nikab
is the form of Muslim veiling that comes closest to what is actually meant by the English word "veil." English speakers tend to use the word veil as a catch-all term that covers all types of Muslim head and body coverings. The nikab, worn in black by this Moroccan woman, is a veil in the true sense of the word. It covers everything below the bridge of the nose and the upper cheeks, and sometimes also covers the forehead.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY PAUL SCHMID / THE SEATTLE TIMES

 



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