5 things you didn't know about religious veils

Story highlights

  • Although closely associated with Muslim women, religious veils have a long and varied history
  • St. Paul, for example, instructed women to cover their heads

Abed Awad is an attorney, a national Islamic law expert and an adjunct law professor at Rutgers School of Law and Pace Law School.

(CNN)Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a Muslim woman who applied for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch to wear a head covering. Although veils have become strongly identified with Muslims, as an article of faith -- and clothing -- they have a long and surprising history across cultural traditions.

Here are five things you might not know about religious head coverings.

    1. In Mediterranean societies, rich and classy women wore veils.

    Assyrian law required free women to cover their heads in public. Prostitutes and slave women were prohibited from veiling. Greek and Persian society had similar requirements. Zoroastrian free women, for example, wore full body coverings and headdresses.

    2. Some Jewish traditions consider a woman's hair too sexy

    Veiling in Jewish law is related to modesty. The veil in today's Jewish communities depends on the religious denomination. Some Hasidic women, for example, shave their heads after their wedding and repeat the shaving monthly, wearing a wig in lieu of hair. Other Jewish women wear a scarf to cover their hair. More liberal branches of Judaism reject veiling altogether.

    3. Apostle Paul said Christian women should wear veils.

    Consistent with the cultural perceptions at the time, Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, explained:
    "For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil."
    Later, Tertullian, an early father of Christianity, wrote a detailed code for women's head coverings call