Posted on January 20, 2014

Muslim Attitudes to Women’s Headwear Revealed

Alex Spillius, Telegraph (London), January 10, 2014

A survey of how women should dress in the Muslim world has found that most women would prefer that a woman completely cover her hair but not necessarily her face.

Only in Turkey and Lebanon, the most secular countries in the region, do more than one-in-four think it is appropriate for a woman to not cover her head at all in public.

Research by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research has been put into a handy graphic and analysed by the Pew Research Centre.


The university surveyed attitudes in seven major Muslim-majority countries: Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt.

The degree to which women cover their hair in public is of course a major issue across the region. Answers suggested that the Arab spring has done little to alter attitudes.

Respondents were shown six cards with various types of head cover, ranging from the fully covering burka to none at all.

The most conservative responses were displayed in Saudi Arabia. Sixty two per cent of respondents there said that women should wear the niqab, the headdress that allows over a narrow slit over the eyes. In Iraq and Pakistan, 32 per cent and 31 per cent of respondents respectively judged the cloaklike hijab (3rd from the left in the graphic), which reveals the full face, to be most appropriate.

The most popular was the more designed hijab (4th from the left), which was approved by a majority in Tunisia and Egypt, and a large minority in Turkey and Iraq. The research did not reveal the gender of respondents.

It also asked if women should be allowed to choose their own clothing.