There’s a woman in Mercy who wears a veil (so that only her eyes are visible) and the whole town is in uproar. Sarah tries to find a law forbidding the veil while Rayyan ends up in jail for covering her face.
Amaar: She’s a Muslim who’s come here to pray. Outside chance, she’s a ninja.
Head scarves and burqas have made it into the headlines in several Western countries several times these past years. Usually in the context of forbidding them. But first, let’s clarify what we are talking about:
So what the lady in the episode is wearing is not a burqa, it is a niqab. Just because using the wrong words for things is annoying.
Judaism has some modesty rules that are in some parts pretty similar to Islam. I think the mainstream orthodox guidelines are that knees, elbows, collarbones and everything in between should be covered in something that is not too tight or flashy. Discussion will of course begin at this point whatever covered, tight and flashy means, but I think most people will agree that these are the general guidelines. I think Islam is a bit more strict here with the limits being the ankles and wrists, at least that’s what my colleague told me.
Head covering for women does exists in Judaism, but only for married women. Islam makes no such distinction. Islam also requires the ears and neck to be covered, Judaism doesn’t. Most Jewish women are ok with some hair showing (e.g., bangs), I have never seen a Muslim woman show any hair. There is no mainstream Jewish stream that encourages the covering of the face. There are a few ladies in Jerusalem who wear something similar to a burqa, but if you ask most Jews, even orthodox Jews, they’d tell you they are crazy. But there seems to be a trend towards more strict modesty rules, so we’ll see where we end up in a few years time.
In the episode Rayyan gets taken prisoner because she fights for the right to wear a veil. Would Jewish women go to prison before taking off their head covering? I believe some would. Fortunately the choice mostly doesn’t present itself, as according to most authorities it is permissible to cover your own hair with somebody else’s, i.e., wear a wig. This allows orthodox Jewish women to follow the halacha (religious law) to cover their head and still seem "normal" in the eyes of the larger society. It may seem really strange to wear a wig, especially if it is a beautiful one. But if you accept that the main thing is that the woman’s own hair should only be seen by her husband, a wig fulfils that purpose as well as any other head covering.
Last question, is it modest to go to extreme lengths to be modest, especially if you are the only one in town to do that? I don’t know. Somehow I don’t think so, but who am I to judge what’s "extreme" when I’m running around in a long skirt and tichel (head scarf) – the only one in town?