The wearing of the hijab and other religious head coverings has received significant attention internationally since the arrest of Mahsa Amini and her subsequent death in custody. (See Mahsa Amini’s Legacy: Update on Iran for more information.) There are strong emotions associated with religious symbols in general and head coverings in particular. In fact, 60 countries worldwide have some type of rule or law regulating women’s religious head coverings. The majority of these rules restrict the wearing of religious head coverings.
Many of these rules place limits on where a woman can wear a religious headscarf or face covering. Most of our readers will be familiar with Quebec’s Bill 21, prohibiting civil servants from wearing religious symbols. According to Pew research in 2012 and 2013, 50 countries had some law or policy about women’s religious attire; 39 of these limited women’s clothing choices, while 12 required a particular piece of clothing. Russia fell into both categories, banning hijabs in public schools in Stavropol while requiring them in public buildings in Chechnya.
Beliefs about religious clothing vary along with the rules regarding them. The Human Truth Foundation argues that “legislation on clothing and religious symbols in secular democracies should be based around the principle of maximum freedom and no compulsion,” but that there are times when “secular law should trump religious rules.“ However, some of their examples of where it is necessary to ban religious clothing are subjective and potentially unhelpful. (For example, preventing harassment within minority communities.)
In fact, various forms of religious head coverings are worn by both genders and most faith groups. Headwear is used to demonstrate modesty (most often by women), as means of identifying religious leaders (most often men), or to publicly acknowledge one’s affiliation with a religion. Some religious headwear is a requirement of belonging to a faith, where the religious requirements of others (such as the hijab) is unclear.
Types of Religious Head Coverings
|Name of head covering||Who wears this||Faith group|
|Ammama (Emma)||Men in Egypt and Sudan||Muslim|
|Biretta||Male clergy members||Christian|
|Burzinqa||Men (baptismal ceremonies)||Mandaean|
|Christian head covering||Women||Christian|
|Kippah (Yarmulke or Koppel)||Men||Jewish|
|Mitre||Men (bishops and abbots)||Christian|
|Pandama||Men (during baptisms)||Mandaean|
|Priestly turban||Men (High priest of Israel)||Jewish|
|Turban||Men (occasionally women)||Sikh and Hindu|
Comments on “Religious Head Coverings: More Than Just Hijabs”
Some of us wholeheartedly support bill 21
Concerning conflict over religious head covering laws, the world could do with a bit more “live and let live” attitude. I voluntarily wear a religious head covering, even though I am a lifelong atheist. It is a Toronto Blue Jays cap. Yeah, baseball is a religion to some!
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