April 11th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Explainer: Islamic headscarves and France's new burqa ban

France's controversial ban on wearing Islamic veils such as burqas took effect Monday.

The ban pertains to the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh window over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes.

The hijab, which covers the hair and neck but not the face, and the chador, which covers the body but not the face, apparently are not banned by the law.

Click through the gallery to see what the main types of Islamic headscarves look like - and to see what's banned and what's not under France's new law.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church and state • France • Islam • Politics

soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Lara

    Great job... I am Muslim and I have to say there is NO where in Quran where it is talking about the way some crazy Sudi's do to cover their face. All religon says to act and dress up reasonably! If you encourage that kind of covering, then you are encouraging women to remain in dark... Ladies get some education and act normal, I am sure the one's with Hujab are the worse. I hate them 🙂

    April 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • MoHamMad

      Here is true education about Islam. You can read 'Understanding Muhammed' by Ali Sina along with Quran to understand the true nature of Islam. You can visit his website at 'FaithFreedom'. CNN disables organization at the end.
      Here is what he says about Muhammed,

      $50,000 U.S. dollars

      to anyone who can disprove any of the dozen of the accusations that I have made against Muhammad. I accuse Muhammad of being:

      a narcissist a misogynist a rapist
      a pedophile a lecher a torturer
      a mass murderer a cult leader an assassin
      a terrorist a mad man a looter


      April 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      For a more objective and mature description of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, visit.


      April 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Justice786


      Thank you. You are absolutely right. Niqab or burqa is not required in Islam, and is more a matter of culture. As for MoHamMad, it is easy to make accusations when you have not studied the Qur'an in arabic and have looked at the verses in the context of revelation. I pray to God that you find the way and become a Muslim and then spend the remainder of your life correcting all the distortions you have spread about Islam and the Prophet of Islam (s).

      April 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  2. Cruchot

    Bravo la France. They are right on. They have enacted a law to protect France and its culture from the aggression. Folks in the USA, we need to be careful as well because islam is neither peaceful nor tolerant with our western culture and values.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • PEACE!!!

      You forgot about all of the horrible things that other religions did in the past. Here is some history on other religions "peaceful" history:
      1. Anglican Church- King Henry VIII started it so that he could divorce his 1st wife Catherine and marry Ann Boleyn when Catherine couldnt give birth to a son. he later beheaded Ann Boleyn for charges of "witchcraft"
      2. Catholics- The spanish inquisition started by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to rid Spain of the jewish people. They tortured many. Mary Tudor also known as bloody Mary also killed many for her catholic faith.
      3.Christianity- Hitler and the Holocaust.The destruction of many beautiful traditions because of the "conversion" of native americans. most were also forced.

      Of course there is much much more history out there and more religions with a "peaceful" past. just so you know i am not trying to bash others, just showing that islam is not the only religion that has lots of fighting in its background.

      April 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  3. lee ann wyatt

    People who cover their head in this country are usually criminalls! We should adopt the same law in this country . Muslims are terrorists and should be treated as accordingly.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  4. William

    I find it interesting that Muslims want to blame the French for discrimination yet haven't stopped to think about how they continue to fall for all the repressive trappings of their ridiculous faith. The real question is why do Muslims move to Europe in the first place. It is apparent that their motives are not to integrate and or assimiliate but to exploit their host and force them to accommodate their lifestyles. At some point, it is time to re-evaluate matters. Muslims need to learn to adapt to the 21st century. Obviously if you look at examples like Afghanistan and other countries in the region, there is no hope for advancement because the culture, traditions, religion and mentality are not conducive to progress and growth. Islam is a faith of intimidation and regression. It's unfortunate but a reality that Europe has to acknowledge and contend with if it doesn't want to find itself mired in a war of religions. Islam is not compatible with the West. It is time to stop the mass migration and send them home. It's not as though you see Europeans seeking asylum or refugee status in the Middle East. SImply put, no one wants to go back in time.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Justice786

      Afghansitan is not representaive of Islam and Muslims. Islam was way ahead of the West when it granted women the right to own property, to be the ones who chose to be married or not, and to have the right to divorce. While the west was debating whether women had souls and were blaming women for the fall of man, Islam did not. In Islam, men and women have equal but not identical rights. The Burqa is not required in Islam, the hijab is. Modesty is required of both men and women. Indigenous Muslims live both in the West and in the East, and you cannot use geographical divides to separate Muslims. My wife is an Navy veteran, part Siouz and is a Muslim. So is my son who has served in the Navy defending your right to be free and to practice your faith. We are not going anywhere. America is our country just like yours.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Geoffrey Hamilton

    The freedom of religion argument can be countered with similar laws that protect women from Polygamy and underage marriage.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  6. a periz


    April 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • David

      What does that mean? So if someone comes to this country they have to dress like everyone else? Who is everyone else? I think a woman should be able to choose to wear a veil or not wear a veil based on what she decides. I think that is more in line with the American way than enforcing some archaic “when in Rome rule.” However, I do agree with your statement in some sense, people should be respectful of local laws and customs when traveling. But it should not be illegal for a woman to have the right to choose to wear a veil. If we were all the same life would be pretty dull.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Pete Larson

      The law allows for freedom of expression and religion, you idiot.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  7. Prad

    I would like my Mother-in-Law to wear the Burqa, even in the shower.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      why exactly are you hanging around your mother-in-law's shower? isn't her daughter good enough for you?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  8. a periz


    April 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  9. cgreen64

    US should follow the French. People need to respect the laws of the nation they live in and France's banning this sort of clothing is their perroggative, their right. They intend to keep their society open and free- and that's what the United States should follow. It's almost disgusting when I see a muslim man in shorts and sandals and his wife 5 ft behind him wearing a black haqib- it's unfathomable in this day to see that.

    April 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • PEACE!!!

      Most women do it because they want to. It is their way to be modest. I bet if you asked that women if her husband or family forced her to wear it she would say no. though it is true some women are forced to wear it a lot do it because they want to.

      April 20, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  10. Timme62

    All I know is to stay away from anyone wearing a burqa or a chador, specially in the summer. Because they stink to high heaven....

    April 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  11. Craig Billingsley

    Of all the great religions of the world, Islam is the most dangerous. They carry the sword if you do not proscribe to Islamic laws. Sharia law is law to all the world where Muslims are found. If the USA has Muslims, then Sharia law is the law of the land. If France, the sharia law is the law of the land, if Russia, Great Britain, and so forth, then sharia law is the law of the land. Islam is not compatible with any other belief system, period. There is no middle ground, no compromise. However, Christianity in its original form is non-violent, and is a 'kingdom from within', and not of the world, but resides in the hearts of the believers, until Emperor Constantine embraced the religion and created the church and state. And this followed in all nations that embraced Christianity. Islam spread their religion by the sword first, then the conquered peoples submitted [which is what Islam means]. Catholic churches were established originally using the state's military might to convert. Orthodox churches also began to spread using the state's power, beginning with Emperor Constantine in Byzantium AKA Constantinople AKA Istanbul [Islamic]. So the burqa and other coverings is submission of women.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Justice786

      Actually you are wrong. “Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible.” – Philip Jenkins, author of ‘Jesus Wars’. Jenkins is a professor at Penn State University and author of two books dealing with the issue: the recently published Jesus Wars, and Dark Passages. You are also wrong about the Sharia. Muslims are required to obey the law of the land wherever they reside–unless it explicitly contradicts the Qur'an, i.e. abortion laws. If you read the Qur'an in Arabic, you will see that there is not a single arabic term that can be translated into "holy war". This term in Arabic would be Harb Muqadassa. It is nowhere to be found in the Qur'an, and it is very clear from the Qur'an that wars are to be conducted only in defense or to fight oppression. Nowhere in the Qur'an does it say that one has to force Islam onto others via the sword. This would be a contradiction of Chapter 2, verse 256 where God is saying, "Let there be no compulsion in religion." What the detractors of Islam have done is to quote part of verses or verses without referring to context. This is disingenuous at best, wilfully derogatory at worst.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • David

      You are confusing the religion with what men in power do in the name of the religion. Humans have twisted the word of God since the beginning.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Gokhan

      Istanbul drives from the Greek word, Istimboli(n) to mean "to the city" or "in the city." Islamic?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • PEACE!!!

      If the catholics did the spanish inquisition today we would be having this discussion about them. Bottom line: all religions have done this before. it annoys me when people are talking about how the muslims do this and that when they forget what the christians did to the native americans and what the catholics did to the jewish people in the 1400ʻs.

      April 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  12. HammySantana

    Hijabs are really the only thing required by Islam, and even then it is more a badge fo honor for women to wear than a requirement. Everything else is a society thing, and NOT a religious thing.

    As a Muslim, I am okay with these laws. As long as Hijabs are allowed, that's fine.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • David

      Actually they are not required. Women and men are asked to dress modestly. That leaves a lot to interpretation.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  13. FRK

    who cares what you belive or not. I care what I belive and I should have the liberty to express what I believe. Well if someone is against burqa/veil, they should have the same standards for nuns. ban them too. they are extremist too. but i think some people have double standards. they can only tolerate what they belive to be right and have just one perspective. Well if someone does not believe in GOD that's seriously not my problem and if someone belives, then its not their problem either. stick to you own balls.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • HH

      The problem is the face covering. Nuns don't cover their faces. If some women in burqua walks to the bank I am in, I will walk away just in case.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  14. Dave

    Now if the US could just pass a saging pant's law I'd be happy, I'm tired of seeing people underware.....................

    April 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Cody

      Excellent spelling.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Solarcooked

      Right on Dave!

      April 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  15. SadieSadie

    US please follow in France's footsteps because we don't need that here either.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • David

      Never mind freedom of religion. What if a woman wants to wear the hijab? Make no mistake many women like to wear it and many Christian women in the Middle East wear the veil in some form or another. And if they choose to wear in it America then that is their choice.
      Having said that, a woman should not be forced to wear the veil, but to ban an article of clothing would be problematic. I think women should decide individually what they will or will not wear to express their individuality, religion, or whatever reason they choose to wear an article of clothing.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  16. Harry from da Burn

    About time the French did something right.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  17. tom j

    As far as I am concerned the great Prophet Mohamed was a normal guy and people around him wanted people to believe in something spectacular and they lied a lot. There is really nothing supernatural or God like having anything to do with Islam whatsoever. The deity relationships are severely flawed and leave a trail of defect for someone who falls for the Koran. Once this trail of defect is emulated the kinds of horrible so called religious violence can happen where Muslims attack Muslims because of preferential differences in worship. When you look around the world and you see people going bananas because the GOD they believe in desperately needs help from being offended you have to realize that there is something seriously wrong with what they believe. Of course the Koran is bogus the horrible violence is an outgrowth of just how defective it is.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • David

      Your post makes no sense at all.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Tom J

      Basically since the religion is bogus the headcarfs are completely unnecessary, the Burqas are even more unnecessary and all may pose a health risk in hot weather.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • David

      I'm not sure how you can conclude the religion is bogus. You may not follow the religion, but that hardly means it is bogus. And from you description of Islam, it appears you know very little about it.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Cody

      First of all, I believe it's Quran. Secondly, all religious books are bogus.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      The face veil is based on a Qur'anic Injunction, where the Prophet's wives are ordered to cover their faces. This because, the Prophet's wives lived next to the central mosque in Medina where all the matters of state used to be decided, and as a result, they were often in contact with all manner of menfolk. Something other women in the city did not have to deal with. So the veil was prescribed for them, in order to allow them to move about freely in their immediate confines without coming into needless contact with men of the town.

      Its like the White House basically, except there was no "private wing" for the Prophet's wives, they lived in ramshackle housing built into the mosque at the time. And the Prophet was very busy dealing with matters of state and matters of his newly formed religion, so there was a lot of activity around the Medina Mosque all the time. And surely led to compromising situations due to the poor lodgings the Prophet afforded his many wives.

      Extremist scholars have since that time, decided, that what is good for the Prophet's wives is good for all Muslim women. Although, in the Qur'an, the face veil is SPECIFICALLY mentioned in context of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  18. Anon

    This is fair -– Western women are asked to cover themselves, wear head scarf, and be in the company of husband or a male relative when in public when they go visit Saudi Arabia.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • dfwmom

      Agreed. This is fair. The burqua is so all-encompassing that there could be a terrorist bomber underneath with a hairy mustache. Also, some women are forced to wear the burqua against their wishes by their family, so this protects their rights and emphasizes their positions as equals in society with a right to show their faces. Also, concealment of the face causes women to be isolated from the community and can increase the risk of domestic violence by making it more difficult for people to detect the abuse and isolating the woman from possible help. When there is a compelling interest (to protect women and society), it is permissible to set reasonable restrictions on religion. France allows the hair covering out of respect for Islam, and requires that the face remain visible, out of a greater good for society.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Timmowi

      Saudi Arabia is a closed country-you can't just go and visit there. Just an fyi.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  19. GSA

    Islam (along with most other religions) has laws that are not compatible with France and it would make total sense to not allow these laws to work there way into France. The Burqa one is pretty stupid though. Let them wear them as long as they remove them for identification purposes or when entering certain buildings, boarding planes, etc for security and I see no problem with it.
    We have laws in certain small towns here in Alberta, Canada that liquor shops can not be open on Sundays along with several other businesses because Christians/Catholics think it is ungodly. Even though the majority of the ppl in that town will want the shops closed (since they are Christian) they are forcing that law upon other members who may not agree and should have the right to keep their shops open and make money for their families. A law should be changed or put in place with a legitimate reason and not because it is against a religions set of rules.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • HannaMomma

      The law is due to the religious aspect. It is due to the extremists using it as a form of cover to carry out their plots. So it is a security/safety reason.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • BG

      @ GSA

      Ah, Canada. The land of "we know what's best for you."

      Research the rise and fall of American 'blue laws' and the impact of the community standard.

      April 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  20. wyciwyg

    the burqa and naqib conceal and isolate women, enforcing the concept of them being chattel, 2nd class persons.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • pete

      you forgot to say FIRST!!!!

      April 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mareen Iqbal


      April 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.