Study: More Countries Restrict Women's Religious Attire

| by Jimmy King
Muslim women in MalaysiaMuslim women in Malaysia

An increasing number of countries are restricting women's religious attire.  The revelation comes following a study of countries' policies on women's religious clothing in 2012-2013.

The Pew Forum study revealed that far more countries have policies banning women from wearing religious clothing than require women to don religious attire, reports The Muslim Times via Pew Forum.

Countries where women's religious attire was restricted included Canada, most of the European Union, China and Australia.

The study also includes reports of women being harassed for declining to wear religious attire. Countries with such harassment reports included Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Indonesia. 

The study comes amid widespread controversy regarding countries' efforts to restrict or require women’s religious clothing. 

In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a French law banning the niqab, a face-covering garment worn by some Muslim women, reports BBC.  Wearing the traditional Islamic clothing can result in a $160 fine and "citizenship instruction."

The ban was challenged in 2011 by a self-described devout Muslim woman, identified only by the pseudonym “SAS”.

The European judges held that the niqab ban did not violate Muslim women’s religious freedom, as it “was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face” in the ruling.

Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, require women to wear religious clothing or face legal recourse, reports the Economist.

Saudi Arabia follows a form of Islamic Sharia law that requires the full covering of women with a headscarf and long “abaya” coat.  The requirement is reportedly implemented by “religious police and zealous volunteers”.

According to a January 2014 survey in the Saudi kingdom, roughly 66 percent of Saudis think women in the country should wear the niqab.

Even if there is significant restriction on women’s attire in Saudi Arabia, Saudis still find ways to utilize the freedom they do have.

According to The Economist, the strict dress code doesn’t necessarily mean that fashion and personal expression are out the window; there are abaya shops all over that offer cloaks in different colors, styles and fabrics.

Sources: BBC, The Economist, The Muslim Times / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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