Many Muslim women interpret the holy Koran to say that they should cover their heads and sometimes entire bodies for purposes of piousness and modesty. This is usually called wearing hijab. The word comes from the Arabic for veil. Women in the Muslim world have many choices of hijab styles from the simple headscarves of Balkan or Turkish women to the full covering of Afghan women. Sometimes the decision to wear hijab is a personal choice; sometimes it is expected by family and community. In conservative Muslim countries wearing hijab may be the law.
A dupatta is a large shawl worn by Pakistani women. It usually matches an outfit called the shalwar kameez, a long tunic over loose pants. The dupatta is loosely wrapped over head, neck and shoulders and sometimes arms. The Los Angeles Times, in an article about dupatta design, said the dupatta can be a symbol of femininity, faith, political fervor or high fashion.
The niqab veils the face, though the area around the eyes is open. The BBC says that sometimes an eye veil is added to this. A headscarf goes along with the niqab. Sometimes it is worn with a chador, or full body cloak, or another kind of hijab garment.
Al-amira and Shayla
This kind of hijab is two pieces. It is made up of a scarf closed under the chin and an elasticized fabric that fits snugly under the scarf and covers the head. The shayla is similar, but looser. It is more like a long headscarf that is pulled together below the chin and pinned. This is often worn in the Gulf countries.
The burqa is a cloak that covers the entire body except for the hands. It is a long draped cloth that has a slit through which the woman can be seen. The slit is covered with mesh to block the view of her eyes. The burqa is often blue in Afghanistan.
The kind of hijab many westerners think of is the chador. This garment is black and billowy. It covers the woman’s entire body like a cloak, draped over the head, closing beneath the chin and dropping to below the ankle. It is often worn with a smaller headscarf beneath the chador. This is the kind of hijab usually worn by Iranian women when in public. The khimar is similar, but does not cover the face and extends to the knees or slightly below.
References and ResourcesBBC News: Muslim Veils
Los Angeles Times: For Pakistani Women, Duppatis Are More Than a Fashion Statement