Australian Women embrace the hijab


February 16, 2004

MORE young Sydney women are choosing to wear the hijab, or head scarf, to show pride in their religion and encourage others to understand Islam rather than fear it.

At a time when the wearing of the veil has come under intense attack in Europe, Muslim women in Sydney are taking up the practice in unprecedented numbers.

Shops and internet sites selling the hijab have reported a spike in sales in recent months.

The shift in visibility of Muslim women in post-"war on terror" Australian society has also led to the introduction of a magazine aimed at twenty-something Muslim women, featuring fashion articles and cooking tips.

Nineteen-year-old student Feda Abdo said more of her friends were choosing to identify their religion.

"More Muslim women are taking a stand and asserting their identity," Ms Abdo told The Daily Telegraph.

"The hijab is an expression of your identity."

Ms Abdo has worn the veil for seven years since her parents allowed her to make a decision.

Her sister did not make the transition until she was well into her teens.

"People think we have no choice -- that we are forced to wear it," said Ms Abdo, who has two drawers full of scarves.

"Most young Muslim women choose to wear it."

Ms Abdo said that by wearing the veil, she was encouraging non-Muslims to ask questions about her religion and help them "understand".

Abdul Shukr, who runs an internet store selling "traditional" Muslim attire for men and women, said there had been an increase in demand in recent months.

"I do believe there are more and more Muslim, and non-Muslim, women donning the hijab," Mr Shukr said.

The Australian example goes against a global trend.

Last week, the French Government approved a law barring children in public schools from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

It bans hijabs for Muslim girls, skull caps for Jews, large crosses for Christians and perhaps turbans for Sikhs.

Germany is also considering a ban on women in the public service wearing the hijab.

The new magazine -- called Reflections, and on its second issue -- is the product of what its editors say is a desire to educate both Muslim and non-Muslim members of the community about the religion's beliefs and practices.

The latest issue, which is funded by advertising from local businesses and a small State Government grant, has a fashion feature showing the "Berkeley cardigan" and the "Paris dress".


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