Following the wrongful arrest of businessman, Ahmed Al Menhali, in the United States the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation advised citizens to leave their formal dress at home when travelling to the States. Here is a full list of 10 countries where women are forbidden to wear the veil. 

There was uproar when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation advised locals to avoid wearing their national dress, following the arrest of Menhali in Ohio, USA. He was wrestled to the ground and held as an Islamic State suspect because a woman panicked when she saw him wearing his traditional white robes.

dolce gabbana hijab abaya

Despite fashion designers creating hijabs and abayas, new laws are stopping women from wearing garments that cover the face (this pic by Dolce & Gabbana)

One reader exclaimed: “No! Why bend the rules for them? It’s the USA’s mistake. There’s nothing wrong with the national dress. Does the UAE arrest them for walking around in bikinis?”

While some of the backlash was probably valid, the fact is when it comes to travelling there are some attire restrictions. Here is a list of the 10 countries who have banned the burqa:


As the first European country to ban the burqa in public, the reaction in France has been a big one. While it started in 2004, with a clampdown on students in state-run schools, the ban came into effect in April 2011. Anyone caught wearing the burqa or niqab will be fined 150 euros (Dhs749). The fine can be substituted for community service.


Belgium was second after France to enforce a ban on the full-face veil (in 2011). The penalties are far greater though then in France with anyone caught wearing the veil being jailed for up to seven days and fined 1,378 euros.


Despite Turkey being a predominantly Muslim population, women who work in the public sector (ie teachers, lawyers, parliamentarians) are banned from wearing headscarves to work. Women can now wear the veil everywhere except in the judiciary, military and police. However, as recent as February 2016 a Pakistani National English Teacher quit his job after being forced to choose between his beard and his career.

Read: Emiratis Warned Not To Wear National Dress Abroad

Read: Abaya-Wearing Woman Wows Dubai Crowd With Football Skills

 The Netherlands

While the Netherlands’ ban isn’t a zero tolerance approach, it still bans the full veil in schools, hospital and on public transport. It also forbids the wearing of the burqa and niqab in “specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen” or for security reasons.


Following the result of a referendum (65 per cent voted in favour of the ban) it is illegal to wear a full-face veil in public in Switzerland’s Tessin region. The law came into force on July 1. If you are caught wearing a burqa you can be fined up to 9,200 euros.


Similar to Switzerland, Italy’s ban is not city-wide. The full-face veil has only been banned in the town of Novara since 2010 and there has yet to be a penalty imposed.

Read: Life As An American Muslim Post 9/11

Read: The Truth About Middle East Misconceptions


Again, like the above two countries, the full veil has not been banned in all of Spain’s cities. However, several parts of Catalonia have imposed laws against burqas and niqabs. According to an European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2014 the ban doesn’t breach human rights.


Following two suicide bomb attacks last year, people have been banned from wearing the full-face veil, which the prime minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet believed was used in the terror attacks as “camouflage”. Deubet even went as far as to threaten to burn any burqa seen on sale.

abaya, muslim, hijab, burqa


The same as Chad, Cameroon decided to clamp down on terrorism by clamping down on people’s rights to wear a burqa. According to the Telegraph “the ban is now active in five of the country’s provinces.”


To try and control their surveillance of Islamist insurgents of Boko Haram, the wearing of the full veil in Diffa is forbidden.


The burqa and niqab have been banned here since 2015 to “prevent any attack of terrorism.”

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Images: Getty