French legislation currently moves forward in an attempt to ban a traditional Muslim headdress and its many variations. For centuries, the mid-eastern cultural topping for women has been used to distinguish sect, style, religious affiliation or origin. Different styles in different regions have different names and uses. Few people from the West even know their names.
The general description that all headscarves fall under has traditionally been the Hijab. The Arabic translation has several definitions, but generally it means to cover or to represent modesty.
These scarves, regarded by many Muslims as a symbol of both religion and womanhood, come in a myriad of styles and colors.
The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
At times, women have incorporated the Niqab. This accessory is a face veil that leaves the area around the eyes clear. Although it can be worn with a separate eye veil, it is ordinarily worn with just an accompanying headscarf.
The Burka conceals the most of all Islamic veils. With just a mesh screen for the woman to see through, it covers the entire face and body.
Both the Burka and the Niqab have been worn by more conservative practitioners of Islam.
When style comes into play, women wear the Al-amira. This headscarf is a two-piece veil consisting of a close fitting cap and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
The Shayla style consists of a long, rectangular material and wrapped around the head while tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The Khimar drapes over as a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. This application of the headdress covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The Chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.