Home' The Wellingtonian : April 12th 2012 Contents 3
THE WELLINGTONIAN, APRIL 12, 2012
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Muslim girls: Not so different
Sisters of the scarf: From left, Keyso Abdule, Khadro Mohamed, Fatima Aqeli, Samia Mohamed and Amina
Welcoming: Hawa Barkhad, left, and Fartun Sheik from Wellington East.
Hijabs, or Muslim head scarves, and burqas,
which include full veils, are becoming a familiar
sight in Wellington schools, marking their wearers
as Muslim girls. Jim Chipp finds out what life in a
scarf is like.
Alena's favourite band is One
Direction and her voice is like any
other year 13 schoolgirl's in New
Zealand but something about her
She is Muslim and chooses to
wear a hijab, or head scarf.
Alena (not her real name) came
from Somalia at a young age with
The oldest of seven siblings, she
attends a Lower Hutt secondary
school, where there are five other
hijab-wearing Muslim girls,
including her sister.
Her interests are similar to
those of her friends -- going to
malls, going to each other's
houses, movie marathons, going
out for dinner -- just normal
She loves Disney films and
books that are related to real life.
When I spoke to her, she was
reading Speak by Laurie Halse
Anderson, about a schoolgirl who
is raped and subsequently
shunned by her schoolmates.
She said she liked fashion, but
had to wear modest clothing.
There's not like a shop for
Muslim girls. I have to buy from
normal shops and adapt it for
what I wear,'' she said.
She doesn't drink alcohol or go
to parties, though.
In that respect I am not your
average teenager,'' she said.
She is studying sciences, calcu-
lus and history and planning to
study health science at Otago Uni-
versity next year, with the goal of
becoming a pediatrician.
Alena plays badminton and
doesn't find her modest clothing
I wear a long-sleeve top under-
neath the T-shirt and track
There was no discrimination in her school life, she said.
People are curious if anything.
I get quite of lot of questions about
why I wear it. I don't really
experience any discrimination.
I do get asked a lot if wearing
scarves is my choice or my
The choice was hers, she said.
There is one [Muslim] girl at
my school who doesn't wear the
scarf. That's up to her and it's her
Outside school, she said she had
occasionally been called a terrorist
and told to go back to her own
I just sort of brush it off.''
Hijabs are a far more common
sight at Wellington East Girls'
College, where there are more
than 30 Muslim students, from
Palestine, Kenya, Somalia and
Fartun Sheik, from Kenya, said
she wears the scarf to show that
beauty is not superficial and to
respect her religion.
Amal Moalin, also from Kenya,
said the hijab clearly dis-
tinguished the Muslim girls, but
no two people were really alike.
We all have our own cultures
and problems,'' she said.
Hawa Barkhad, from Somalia,
said Muslim girls were not actu-
We are human like them [non-
Muslims]. We believe in different
She said her schoolmates were
just curious about her religion and
They ask a lot of questions.
They are interested.''
They said they have Christian
friends as well as Muslim ones
and they like to talk, watch
movies, play sports, go to each
other's houses and do homework
Our religion even says learn
other religions, be friendly to
other people and get to know
more,'' Hawa Barkhad said.
Their musical tastes varied
across the same spectrum of any
group of Wellington secondary
girls -- Lil Wayne to Brooke
Some reported hearing negative
comments outside school.
Just because we wear the
scarves doesn't mean that we are
different,'' Hawa Barkhad said.
People judge us because we
wear the scarves.
They should get to know our
However, they found the school
environment very welcoming.
We are lucky to be in this
school because of the way people
treat us. We are treated like we
are at home.''
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