Why Muslim Women In Britain Chose To Wear A Headscarf

August 27, 2014: British women tell their stories of hijab.

Despite figures showing a rise in the number of attacks against Muslims, women in Britain are increasingly choosing to cover themselves up by wearing a headscarf (hijab) or full-face veil (niqab), Reuters reported.

National campaign group Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) recorded 584 anti-Muslim incidents between April 1, 2012 and April 30, 2013, with about 74 percent of these occuring online.

“Of the physical incidents, six in 10, or 58 percent, were against Muslim women and 80 percent of women targeted were visually identifiable by wearing a hijab or niqab,” the organization noted.

"Attacks against visibly dressed Muslim females may not accurately explain away the trend of hate crimes being opportunistic and situational. The data suggests that the alleged perpetrators of anti-Muslim hate crimes at a street-based level, are young white males targeting Muslim women, and that is a cause for concern," Tell MAMA said in a statement.

Over the ten months from March 2013 to February 2014, the number rose, again, to 734 incidents. 54 percent involved women and a total of 599 occurred on the Internet.

In 2013, hate crimes against British Muslims increased in the weeks following the Woolwich killing in May – when a British soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by two Islamists.
In the last week of that month, fears of prolonged backlash against Muslims reportedly intensified.

The British government tried to tackle the situation by arresting Twitter and Facebook users who were propagating anti-Muslim hate online.

Reuters photographer Olivia Harris recently took portraits of a range of Muslim women in the country in and asked them why they chose to wear a hijab or veil.

Here are some of the stories Harris documented:

Ameera first wore the hijab as part of her primary school uniform.

She started to wear it all the time at age 9 because most of her friends wore the hijab. Her mother would tell her "You don't have to wear it. You're still young!" She loves to wear the hijab and has as many as 60 or 70 different scarves.

Brenda, who is originally from Mexico, converted from Catholicism when she came to London. She thought about becoming a nun before she realized she wanted children.

Saying she has always lived a strictly religious life, Brenda says "I know I'm in a non-Muslim country and so I try to respect the rules. Sometimes people say nice things about my children or they smile at me and I try to smile back at them. I know they can't see my face but I hope they know I'm smiling with my eyes."

Sundas started wearing a headscarf at 18. She faced opposition, particularly from her mother, who doesn't cover her head and didn't like her strict interpretation of Islam.

Her parents thought it would make her less attractive.
She says "I was determined to wear it nonetheless as I had a conviction in my heart that I wanted to please God instead of people. I don't have such a strict interpretation of covering now, instead I focus more on modesty and moderate covering."

Madiha and Afsha started to wear the hijab around the age of 8. They wear the hijab for religious observance, modesty and to protect themselves.

Hana started wearing her headscarf all the time at 12. She was already wearing it at school and her family supported her so it was easy for her to make the decision.

She says if felt like nothing had changed except her relationship with God.

Sanaa wears the hijab on Saturday mornings when she attends Islamic school and occasionally wears it to school. Dalila, Sanaa's mother, says "she may start to wear the headscarf every day next year. Sanaa will decide for herself when she's ready to wear it every day."

Sumreen first decided to wear the headscarf after a driver shouted racist abuse at her. She said "I'm going to stand out whatever I do, so I might as well wear the headscarf."