The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research asked people in seven Muslim countries how women should dress in public. It found the majority of people in Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey believe women should cover their hair but not always their faces.
There were six visual women to choose from. The first woman was completely covered with a screen across the eyes while the sixth woman was Americanized. Woman #4 received the majority of votes:
Overall, most respondents say woman #4, whose hair and ears are completely covered by a white hijab, is the most appropriately dressed for public. This includes 57% in Tunisia, 52% in Egypt, 46% in Turkey and 44% in Iraq. In Iraq and Egypt, woman #3, whose hair and ears are covered by a more conservative black hijab, is the second most popular choice.
In Pakistan, there is an even split (31% vs. 32%) between woman #3 and woman #2, who is wearing a niqab that exposes only her eyes, while nearly a quarter (24%) choose woman #4. In Saudi Arabia, a 63% majority prefer woman #2, while an additional 11% say that the burqa worn by woman #1 is the most appropriate style of public dress for women.
There were a few surprises when they asked people in the countries if a woman should be able to choose how to dress. 47% in Saudi Arabia said they should, despite its being a country known for suppressing women’s rights and where the majority chose ultra-conservative woman #2 in the visual test. Saudi Arabia does not allow women to drive, and women cannot leave their houses without a male relative or interact with men who are not relatives.
Tunisia (56%), Turkey (52%), and Lebanon (49%) were the other countries with high percentages on this question. 27% in Iraq believe a woman should have the freedom to choose clothes and 22% in Pakistan. Only 14% in Egypt think this is appropriate.