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Researchers have studied why young, highly educated Muslim women who live in modern urban environments may be choosing to wear the veil and have uncovered a paradox.

The veil worn by muslim women may signal that they are integrating more 1 Jaggat Rashidi

Image: Jaggat Rashidi /

Their study, which drew on data of thousands of women living in Belgium, Turkey and 25 Muslim countries, suggests that women who cover their head this way are often doing so because they are engaging with a modern, secular world. It says that in social situations in which they mix with non-Muslim friends, work outside the home or and interact with strangers, they may wear the veil as a signal to others in their community to show that mixing with others does not compromise their religious piety. It may also be used to strengthen their own sense of commitment to their faith and its values in a secular world, says the paper.

The study published in the journal, European Sociological Review, is thought to be the first empirical study into why wearing the veil should increase in line with modernisation. The researchers from the University of Oxford and the European University Institute tested earlier mathematical models to see how the intensity of wearing the veil varied according to the women’s education, employment, urbanisation and contact with non-Muslims. The study includes the wearing of headscarves, the turban or hijab, the chador, the burqa (which covers the face too), and no head covering at all.  

Read more on the University website (opens new window)