I don’t have to choose between my hijab and going to school, but my sisters don’t have that chance | Anhaar Karim

Jn the morning, as I intricately pinned my school hijab around my head, I thought about how privileged I was to be able to wear my hijab to school. But it shouldn’t be a privilege, it’s my right. This should not be something that Muslim women around the world have to keep fighting for day after day. I feel for my hijabi sisters all over the world. What would I do if I had to choose between studying and wearing my hijab?

Recently, a young Muslim student wearing the hijab in the Indian state of Karnataka was taunted by a crowd of male anti-Muslim protesters. Watching the footage, I felt disgusted and scared to see a young hijabi woman like me being mugged, when she was doing absolutely nothing wrong. Just trying to get an education. Just last week, near her home, a hijabi high school student in New Zealand was caught on camera as other students forcibly removed her hijab and shared the video of the taunts on social media. The hijab that these women wear is demonized by many people in their communities, countries and sadly all over the world. This Islamophobia is devastating, but sadly, the fact that Muslim women are subject to hatred and abuse is nothing new.

Malala Yousafzai, women’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, tweeted: “Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijab is horrible.” This statement sounded like a human response to such an appalling incident. However, browsing through the comments on Twitter, I was surprised by the amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric. One said: “The regressive practices of the Middle Ages belong to the Middle Ages. Another wrote: “Wearing the hijab in school creates differences.

As a young Muslim woman who wears the hijab, I know that Islamophobia is common, whether in Australia, India or around the world. However, the sheer dominance of Islamophobic views displayed in comments like these surprises me. Equally chilling is the legislative discrimination in many countries against the rights of Muslim women to wear the hijab.

What Muslim women experience is known as “gendered Islamophobia” and it is the hate we receive with our intersecting Muslim and feminine identities. As this global hijabis vilification occurs, we have simultaneously been fed lies about hijab acceptance and the “progress” we are making.

Last month, Vogue France shared an image of Julia Fox wearing a balaclava and headscarf. The image was posted with the caption ‘yes to the headscarf’ – in a country that is actively undermining women’s right to wear the hijab. The since-edited post sparked outrage, and rightly so, with this double standard.

Although we may try to convince ourselves that we are different in Australia, the sad truth is that Islamophobia is prevalent here too and hijabis like me are the biggest target.

I have been the victim of Islamophobic comments on Twitter against me: “Dress and look like a real Australian” and “Maybe if these people could try to assimilate rather than try to impose on us what they would have fled. My family and I were insulted by random people on the street, making fun of our religion. These encounters are terribly the norm within my Muslim community, with many hijabis having experienced this hatred. A report by the Australian Human Rights Commission last year showed that 80% of Muslims in Australia have experienced discrimination.

From the perspective of a 14-year-old hijabi, I urge you to stand in solidarity with us – to speak out against racist behavior and attacks on hijabis wherever you see them. Don’t turn a blind eye to Islamophobia, especially innocent hijabi targets. Defend our rights on social networks and learn about the hijab.

What Muslim women like me need is recognition that this anti-hijab rhetoric is against human rights. Action must be taken against policy makers in countries like France and India where they oppress hijabis. In Australia, we need better representation of Muslim women in all areas – media, politics and literature.

To all the women around the world who are constantly being judged on what you wear or don’t wear, I see you.

To my beautiful hijabi sisters around the world who are forbidden to wear hijab, I see you.

To my hijabi sisters in India or elsewhere who are denied an education because they wear hijab, I see you.

To my hijabi sisters in France or elsewhere who are refused to practice the sports they love because they wear the hijab, I see you.

If the time comes when I have to choose between wearing my hijab and going to school, I really hope the people of the world see me, I hope they see my fight and I hope they share their outrage, like I am today.

Anhaar Kareem is a 14-year-old student at Al Noori Muslim School in Western Sydney

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