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What Is an Arab Burqa?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
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  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2016
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An Arab burqa refers to clothing worn in Middle Eastern countries by women practicing the Islam faith. A burqa covers the entire body and typically includes a head covering with mesh or netting to allow limited vision. Muslim women commonly wear a black Arab burqa in public as a symbol of modesty in the presence of men. It is often called hijab, which means clothing that covers; some liberal factions in Arabian countries oppose continued use of confining garments, favoring a simple head scarf as an alternative.

In some areas, such as Saudi Arabia, women might still be punished for appearing in public without an Arab burqa. The Taliban commonly have imposed sanctions on women by strictly enforcing the Islamic edict demanding women show modesty and respect. Some religious leaders argue the Muslim holy book does not specifically mention burqas, but merely advises against revealing clothing. In the most extreme version of the Arab burqa, a narrow slit allows vision.

This traditional clothing also sparks controversy in Western societies. Some European countries, including France and the Netherlands, banned the Arab burqa in public. Turkey and Tunisia prohibited the clothing in government buildings and schools for security reasons. Men might wear a burqa as a disguise to gain access to female dormitories, or terrorists might conceal their identities by wearing head coverings.

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Women’s rights groups often speak out against the continued use of burqas, claiming the practice represents submission and oppression of women. Some modern Muslim women see the clothing as too confining and unnecessary, opting for simple head scarves as symbols of religious respect. These women typically continue to dress modesty when in the presence of unrelated men.

Proponents of the clothing in some regions claim banning the Arab burqa represents anti-Muslim sentiment and an attempt to stifle religious freedom. People holding these views might consider the burqa a symbol of faith and adherence to Islamic teachings. Throughout the Middle East, various opinions and versions of the burqa exist, based on conservative or liberal ideals in each region.

Twenty-one countries make up the Arabian Gulf states, with most practicing the Islamic faith. It is based on teachings of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of the religion in the seventh century. Islam is based on five pillars outlined in the Quran. The pillars include serving one God, identified as Allah, and a daily ritual of prayer. Muslims also practice fasting and charity as a personal responsibility, and participate in pilgrimages to Mecca, holy land in Saudi Arabia.

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