Definitions

Burqa

Burqa

[boor-kuh, bur-]
A burqa (also transliterated burkha, burka or burqua) is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions for the purpose of cloaking the entire body. It is worn over the usual daily clothing (often a long dress or a shalwar kameez) and removed when the woman returns to the sanctuary of the household (see purdah).

History

Many Muslims believe that the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, and the collected traditions of the life of Muhammed, or hadith, require both men and women to dress and behave modestly in public. However, this requirement, called hijab, has been interpreted in many different ways by Islamic scholars (ulema) and Muslim communities (see Women and Islam); the burqa is not specifically mentioned in the Quran.

Afghanistan

The full Afghan chadri covers the wearer's entire face except for a small region about the eyes, which is covered by a concealing net or grille. This type of covering is also common in North Western Pakistan close to the Afghan border. It is frequently referred to as "Shuttlecock Burqa" in Pakistan to differentiate it from other Burqa styles and due to its resemblance with a badminton shuttlecock or birdie. Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian burqas may expose the face or eyes. The garment is usually sewn from light materials, and requires many metres of material. Blue is a favourite colour for chadris. The cap from which the material hangs may be decorated with embroidery.

The chadri was created by one of Afghanistan's rulers trying to stop anyone from seeing his wives' faces. He came up with the chadri, which became a sign of an upper class citizen; however, as times changed, the new government decided that chadris weren't modern enough and banned them. The upper class people then gave them to their servants. The chadris in those days were made out of silk and the mesh at the front was lace.

Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, the chadri was infrequently worn in cities. While they were in power, the Taliban treatment of women required the wearing of a chadri in public. Officially, it is not required under the present Afghan regime, but local warlords still enforce it in southern Afghanistan. Burqa use in the remainder of Afghanistan is variable and is observed to be gradually declining in Kabul. Due to political instability in these areas, women who might not otherwise be inclined to wear the chadri must do so as matter of personal safety.

Islamic dress controversy in Western Europe

Face-covering Islamic clothing has become a controversial political issue in Western Europe, and some intellectuals and political groups advocate prohibition, for various reasons.

The government of the Netherlands is the first to plan a legal ban on face-covering Islamic clothing, popularly described as the 'burqa ban', although it does not apply to only the Afghan-type chadri. Immigration and Integration minister Rita Verdonk announced the legislation in November 2006. In the November 2006 general election, the Party for Freedom won 9 seats: it advocates prohibition of the burqa. In response, a group of Muslim women organised a pro-burqa demonstration at the newly elected Dutch parliament in The Hague.

Islamic dress that covers the face of women has also caused controversy in the United Kingdom (see main article at United Kingdom debate over veils). A senior member of the government, Jack Straw, asked Muslim women from his constituency to remove any veils covering their faces during face-to-face meetings with him. He explained to the media that this was a request, not a demand, and that he made sure that a woman staffer remained in the room during the meeting. A media furor followed. Some Muslim groups said that they understood his concerns, but others rejected them as prejudicial.

See also

References

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