Hiding in a Hijab
Ah, the hijab, and its close cousins the niqab and the burqa; these articles of clothing are most associated with Middle-Eastern Muslim maidens (for their modesty). They also have the distinctive properties of being 1. Extremely common in certain locations and 2. Face-concealing. This means that if you as a fictional character are on the lam in Qurac, running through the ubiquitous out-door marketplaces in an attempt to dodge your pursuers by leaping over apple-carts, you have a perfect means of evading capture: Simply don one of those big, black outfits the women are wearing, and vanish right into the crowd. (Actually being a woman is optional, if you can avoid being given away by your voice.) Just how you're supposed to come by one of these is not important. How you find one in your size is even less so. The important thing is that you can hide your face without drawing the kind of attention a mask or hood would bring down on you, and make yourself harder to find than Where's Waldo?. And really, besides tipping off the audience that the scene takes place in the Middle East, isn't this the only reason these clothes exist? A subtrope of Disguised in Drag.
ExamplesAnime and Manga
- Lupin III (Red Jacket): In one episode, Lupin and his gang steal burqas to hide from Inspector Zenigata. Zenigata tracks them to a well where women are doing the laundry. Finding the gang's discarded clothes, he forces the women there to remove their veils, and promptly subverts the trope when its revealed the ladies are actual ladies, who promptly make their displeasure known with wooden laundry mallets. Later in the episode, it's played straight when the gang actually does disguise themselves in burqas. Afraid of getting beaten again, Zenigata lets them go without an inspection.
- This was done by Luke Cage and Danny Rand in the 81st Power Man and Iron Fist issue; part of the gag was that the cover advertised "a bevy of beautiful dancing girls" without mentioning just who two of those "girls" were.
- Tintin and Captain Haddock sneak past Khemed guards while wrapped up and balancing urns on their heads in Black Gold. The captain trips, nearly swears, and manages to keep the urn balanced to the guards' unhidden admiration. Later at a well they meet another robed woman who questions them in Arabic. When neither answers, she rips off the (bearded) captain's veil. Who starts yelling at her as Snowy pops out of the urn and starts barking at her. Fortunately they escape before the guards can find them, but alarm is raised and they're saved only by their pursuers' incompetence.
- Used in New X-Men: Academy X, when X-23 knocks out Dust and "borrows" her niqab, going in her place to what X recognizes as a trap. When a sniper shoots "Dust" and they bring in the body, Laura wakes up and takes them out.
- This is used a couple of times in Y: The Last Man. A trio of renegade Cuelper ring agents tracking 355 wore burqas until they caught up with her in San Francisco. Later in Australia, 355 decided that Yorick's gas mask & poncho getup was growing too implausible and provided him a... pre-owned one.
"Is that a bloodstain?"
- This is how the Burka Avenger maintains her secret identity. The villains of the show are certainly hoist by their own petards in this instance, as they are the people insisting that women wear burkas in the first place.
- This Gargoyles fic has Demona (in her human guise) attempt to hide from the police disguised as a Muslim housewife calling herself Dema Darwish.
- Done in Zero Dark Thirty; a group of soldiers wearing hijabs and hiding machine guns under them was used to capture a member of Al-Qadia for interrogation.
- In White Sun of the Desert, Black Abdullah uses this trick to get the drop on Petrukha (a Red Army soldier and Comrade Sukhov's sidekick) and kill him.
- Epically done in Jackie Chan's The Accidental Spy. While being pursued by enemy agents, he notices large swathes of cloth hanging from rafters, which he acrobatically wraps around him. See for yourself.
- One of the short stories in Young Warriors by Tamora Pierce features a nation governed by a religion that is an Expy of Islam, in which women are forced to wear garments similar to niqabs or burkas, and are not permitted education. The female protagonists organise at night to spread education amongst their people, and the government can't identify who is behind the movement because - shockingly - they're all wearing face-concealing clothing.
- Reese does this in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle after he's joined the army and is lost in Afghanistan.
- Done in an early episode of Community where Shirley's two children hide in a burqa so that Abed's cousin can get in the bouncy-castle without Abed's disapproving father noticing that she's gone.
- Top Gear's Middle East Christmas Special had the presenters take a meandering journey from Iraq to Bethelehem. Driving through Syria, the guys unexpectedly discovered that Top Gear is extremely popular in Syria. Which posed a problem, because Israel doesn't allow entry to people who have been in Syria.note After first attempting to pass through the empty Syrian desert, they then decided to don burqas instead to pass unnoticed. This cunning plan didn't work all that well, as three people in burqas driving bizarrely-modified convertible sports coupes still tend to draw attention.note
James: (After finding out it didn't work) I've appeared on television in drag for nothing!
- Doonesbury: While in Afghanistan Hedley disguises himself this way, it triggers quite a few jokes.
- Funky Winkerbean: During Wally's escape from his Afghan tribal captors he was taken in by an orphan girl who dressed him up in a burqa to hide him from said tribe.
- In Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain, the female version of Cobra dresses in a burqa for the Arms Bazaar mission in Yemen. As usual, certain guards can see through the player's disguise, although the others don't seem to notice when you're carrying a weapon and wearing night vision goggles on the outside of the veil. Just don't walk around with the gun drawn.
- Parodied on Family Guy, where two cops end up chasing Brian through an inexplicable marketplace and find what seems to be Brian in a burqa, only to discover it's actually just an ugly woman.
- On The Wild Thornberrys, although Eliza isn't actually running from anyone, she does use a veil in order to switch places with a friend in one episode. The disguise is impenetrable until said friend confesses to the ruse.
- Roger, being an alien, has done this a few times on American Dad!.
- Mustaf Jama, was said to have been caught attempting to flee the UK in a Muslim veil after being involved in the murder of a policewoman in a robbery.
- BBC journalist John Simpson reportedly sneaked into Afghanistan in 2001 wearing a burkha.
- In France, the debates around interdiction of wearing burkha in the streets is partly inspired by concerns related to the old French secularism principle, and partly by this trope, to avoid thieves or burglars to hide their identity under this practical disguise.