NEW GLASGOW - After 10 years in Canada, Hadeel El-zubeidi still doesn’t feel comfortable wearing a hijab in public.
© AMANDA JESS - THE NEWS
Hadeel El-zubeidi, left, and Ilhem Dadakhani spoke about why the hijab represents for Muslim women at a presentation in New Glasgow on Oct. 26.
El-zubeidi spent three years in New Glasgow. She tried to wear the Muslim headscarf for a month at North Nova Education Centre, but only ended up keeping it on for a week.
“I had to take it off. I couldn’t bare it,” she said at a presentation on Oct. 26 at Glasgow Square, put together by YMCA Immigrant Services and the Pictou County Women’s Centre.
El-zubeidi and Ilhem Dadakhani were speaking on why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab. They said it’s part of an awareness campaign they wish to start in Pictou County that will break down misconceptions and familiarize people with the important piece of their culture.
“It’s just a scarf, like any other scarf,” Dadakhani, a Pictou County resident since 2006, said.
Although it’s often associated with oppression, El-zubeidi said it’s a choice.
“We are not silenced.”
One of the many reasons women wear it is because they want to follow the Qur’an.
It allows them to feel closer to Allah, she said.
“A lot of women when they wear it, they feel that. They feel God is with them.”
It also serves as a way to escape the pressures of looking a certain way, El-zubeidi said.
Many women often showcase their body as a way of dressing up, she said, and the hijab, combined with loose robes, is modest.
“If a woman has the right to show off what she has, she also has the right to conceal it.”
She explained it empowers women and helps them to be recognized for their worth, rather than their appearance.
El-zubeidi moved to Canada 10 years ago from Palestine.
She’s had many negative experiences while wearing headscarves and it’s left her traumatized she said.
Her attempt to wear a hijab while in high school ended because of the attention she received.
People were always staring, she said, to the point where her friends were diverting away from her because they were receiving attention as well.
She stopped being able to focus because of it. She was the only Muslim in school, she said.
Part of the presentation on Saturday included an experiment where four women that aren’t Muslim went out in the community with headscarves.
Most of them didn’t receive a lot of attention they said, but when they ran into people they knew, no one questioned why they were wearing them.
Candace Slater-Macdonnell was one of the women who wore one downtown.
She believes the attention Muslim women receive is because the scarfs set them apart.
“The culture of Pictou County is they want to place you,” she said, adding that it’s not necessarily in a judgmental way and likely occurs everywhere.
She said it’s an automatic reaction if people don’t recognize you. They want to know what town you’re from and your family name.
Mary Ali, a teacher at Northumberland High School, was born in Pictou County, but when she began wearing a hijab, she started getting asked where she was from.
She said it threw people off, but her experience has been positive.
She converted to Islam in 1988, but didn’t begin wearing the hijab right away. She had to build up her courage and learn more about the religion.
When she did, the administration and students at her school were very accepting, which made the process easier.
“Now I’m asking myself why I waited so long.”
Dadakhani and El-zubeidi hope to speak more in the community and are offering their talk to businesses.
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda