By Russell Goldman
They are banned in France, mandated in Saudi Arabia and a fashion statement inIndonesia. Veils for Muslim women come in all sizes, shapes and colors — and with terminology that can mean different things in different places.
The Quran is oblique in its references to “hijab,” which is described not as an article of clothing but something akin to a curtain or “separation” that allows for privacy. Here’s a guide to how that looks around the Muslim world.
Abaya: The ubiquitous (and requisite) covering for women in Saudi Arabia is seen throughout the Arabian Peninsula and parts of North Africa. Typically black, the garment is constructed like a loose robe or caftan and covers everything but the face, hands and feet.
Burqa: The Taliban-required garment is worn mainly in Afghanistan, and covers the entire face, with a crocheted mesh grill over the eyes. When first mentioned in The New York Times, in 1988, it was described as “tentlike.” In Kabul, most burqas are blue, but in other parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan they’re brown, green or white.