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Understanding the hijabBy Hilary Beaumont | May 4, 2012
Anisa Awad wore a pink headscarf to Peggy’s Cove. As she walked along the rocks, a woman called to her: “Really nice colour. What colours are you allowed to wear?”
“Anything that matches what I’m wearing,” Awad recalls. “It’s interesting to see that perception because [the hijab] is very subjective.”
When we meet at the Paperchase, the 23-year-old covers her hair and neck with a two-toned black and white headscarf that has silver threads running through the fabric. She’s the only one in the cafe wearing a headscarf, but the hijab is becoming more common in central Halifax, near the new Maritime Muslim Academy, and in Bedford.
There aren’t strict rules for how to wear the hijab, which means ‘covering’ in Arabic. The way a woman wears it is all about her interpretation of modesty.
For younger Muslims, the hijab is about personal style. Awad owns at least 30 different headscarves in all colours of the rainbow. Awad first donned the hijab when she was 17 in the United Arab Emirates. Everyone at her high school wore it and she stuck out. She decided to try it for a couple weeks and realized she liked it. Her family was surprised. They asked, “Are you sure?”
The hijab hasn’t always given her butterflies, but the benefits outweigh the costs for Awad. Over time, she realized it forces people to value her for her personality and character rather than her body. “There’s no denying it: we live in a society where image is very important. It’s all about balance for me—not being extreme, being comfortable with who you are.”