“ Why are you wearing the hijab? ”: Questions I am asked as a Muslim woman
Being a Muslim in Australia can come with assumptions and stereotypes.
They can range from faith, to hijab (headscarf), to identity.
We asked five Muslim women the most asked questions and how they answered them.
Why are you wearing a hijab (headscarf)?
When Ann Mohamed first moved to Australia from Singapore, she found it easy to blend in due to the way she dressed.
It wasn’t until four years ago that she found herself having difficult conversations – because she decided to don the hijab.
Married to a white Australian, she sometimes received questions from her husband’s family.
She saw this as an opportunity to educate and raise awareness about Islam.
“My nephews and nieces were like, ‘Why are you putting this on Aunt Ann? Why do you suddenly want to cover your hair?'”
“Now [that] they understand, they slowly learn why we have to fast, why we celebrate Eid. “
She found it a bit more difficult when it came to talking to her in-laws.
Ms. Mohamed had to explain that the decision did not change who she was inside.
“I’ve changed, but I’m still Ann and I’m still part of the family,” she says.
“I’m still what I was before the physical change in appearance.
Can you be a Muslim and an Australian?
Umber Rind is a proud Yamatji woman from the land of Badimia, Western Australia.
The community of both indigenous and Muslim people is small.
Navigating both identities also comes with its own challenges.
“As an identifiable Muslim woman who wears a hijab, I am subject to the general Islamophobia that exists in Australia,” says the Melbourne-based GP.
“I had to fight to be able to keep my hijab on during surgeries and because of my presence this created new infection control guidelines in the hospitals I worked in.
Besides Islamophobia, Dr Rind also had to endure racism in his workplace and within his own community.
“When I spoke of my [Indigenous] I have been ridiculed and derided by my fellow Muslims.
“I have also been confronted with anti-native sentiments in the workplace, with fellow doctors making racist comments.”
As she struggled with her identity growing up, she eventually learned to love and accept herself.
Dr Rind believes more needs to be done to ensure that the Australian identity represents all Australians.
“I think when the Australian community as a whole starts to be more inclusive and the ‘Australian identity’ becomes accessible to everyone, regardless of [skin] color, then things may change. “
Are you allowed to go out with yourself?
Fadia Mohamed addressed misconceptions about dating as a Muslim woman.
“People think dating is almost like an engagement,” she says.
Ms. Mohamed has been wearing the hijab from a young age, but explains that wearing it does not erase the concept of dating.
Instead, the hijab helps distinguish genuine people by getting to know her and respect her religious beliefs and personal boundaries.
The hijab also boosts her confidence in meeting people and does not limit her dating options.
“In Islam, the girl can say ‘no’ and she can get married [a person of] any race, type and cultural background, ”says the college student.
“Sometimes people take culture as religion when it is completely separate.”
Why did you choose to be a Muslim?
Raised in a Protestant Christian family, Nikol Kadlecikova only learned about Islam in 2016 by backpacking across Asia.
His first stop was Malaysia, a country where Muslims form the majority.
His spiritual journey began with a tourist trip to the mosque.
His research on Islam revealed a strong resonance with his personal beliefs.
But being a Muslim who doesn’t fit stereotypes has raised some tough questions.
Ms. Kadlecikova only wears the headscarf during the holy month of Ramadan, but she practices her religion through other means such as fasting and prayer.
“I have been asked, why choose to follow religion, if I am not ready to participate fully?” she says.
Despite this, she found the support of imams (mosque leaders) and women in her community who reassured her that her journey was hers.
How can we bridge the gap?
Speech therapist Rheme El-Hussein teams up with her husband to organize annual open days at Al-Sadiq Mosque in Melbourne.
His professional and voluntary work aims to promote understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The open house gives people the opportunity to break bread together and exchange questions and answers.
“I think in a country like Australia, where we live in a really multicultural society, it’s so important to do things like this, because, you know, we’re a family,” she says.