The Female Faces of Islam


A survey conducted by the University of Michigan* in seven Muslim-majority countries asked people ‘What style of dress is appropriate for women in public?’ People in Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey where given a card with pictures of six women’s headdress styles and asked to choose which woman was appropriately dressed to go in public.

The survey found that most people in these countries prefer that a woman completely covers her hair, but not necessarily her face. People within a country didn't all agree on the same style. The largest majority was in Saudi Arabia where 63 percent believe having only a woman's eyes exposed is the most appropriate. Click each face below to learn about each style of headdress.

The following graph shows the percentage of people in each country who think each style of head covering is most appropriate for public.

Face Fully Covered Eyes Exposed Black Hijab White Hijab Hijab, Hair Showing No Head Covering
Tunisia 1 2 3 57 23 15
Egypt 1 9 20 52 13 4
Turkey 0 2 2 46 17 32
Iraq 4 8 32 44 10 3
Lebanon 2 1 3 32 12 49
Pakistan 3 32 31 24 8 2
Saudi Arabia 11 63 8 10 5 3
Median 2 8 8 44 12 4

Demographic Differences

The survey also looked at how preference differed by demographic.


Those with a university education were less conservative than those without one in all countries surveys. This difference was most significant in Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan. People with a university education were also more supportive of the idea that women have the right to choose how they dress in every country except Saudi Arabia.


The surveyors found no significant different in style preference between men and women. The only exception is in Pakistan where men prefer more conservative styles. Across all countries, more women than men believe that women have the right to choose how they dress.


Respondents 18-29 were less conservative than those over 30.

*All information is from a PEW Research Center article that summarizes a survey conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.