Wednesday, October 31, 2007


More Muslim women in metro Detroit defy stares and prejudice by
wearing head scarves

Niraj Warikoo
Free Press

At 19, Sandra Jawad decided she wanted to wear an Islamic head scarf.
Her mother's response: a long lecture on how that could draw prejudice
and limit her career options. "She told me, it's going to be hard. ...
It'll make things difficult," Jawad said, recalling a four-hour talk
with her mom in their Dearborn home last July.

Jawad eventually convinced her family to let her wear the head scarf.
And six months later, her 44-year-old mother began wearing one, too,
spurred by her daughter's religious awakening.

The two are part of the growing number of Muslim women in Michigan
choosing to wear the head scarves, known as hijab, with many donning
them at increasingly younger ages.

The upswing is driven by increased attendance at local mosques and
Islamic schools, where clerics often describe hijab as the flag of Islam.

And the local trend mirrors an increased use of hijab among women in
the Middle East and Europe, where Islamic beliefs in Muslim
communities have intensified. In the past, women often waited until
reaching their teenage years or middle age before putting on hijab,
but now, even elementary school-age children are wearing them.

The changes represent a fundamental shift in how Muslim youth identify
themselves. But it comes with a price.

Some "look at us, smirk, stick out their tongues or shout out the
window, 'Why do you have that on?'" said Arrwa Mogalli, 29, of
Dearborn, who has worn hijab since she was 11. "You have nuns totally
covered ... and no one questions it. But when a Muslim does it, we're
from outer space."

Flip through Fordson High School yearbooks and you'll see a marked
change. In 1990, only seven seniors at the Dearborn school wore hijab
in their class photos. That's less than 5% of the female students in
the senior class of a public school with a student body that's at
least 85% of Arab descent.

In the class of 2006, 78 are wearing hijab -- 40% of the women in the


Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press,

Her mother, grandmother, and all her aunts had never worn hijab. And
for the first 44 years of her life, neither did Sandra Amen-Bryan, a
third-generation American living in Dearborn.

But with the anti-Muslim backlash after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
weighing on her mind, Amen-Bryan decided to put on a head scarf in
November 2003 on Eid, an Islamic holy day that marks the end of
Ramadan. When in public, she's kept it on ever since.

"I was not going to blend into the background," said Amen-Bryan, 48.
"I was going to stand up and say, 'This is who I am, this is who I'm
proud of, and this is what I'm willing to struggle for.' "

But the decision strained her 15-year marriage to a Christian-raised man.

For most of her life, Amen-Bryan wasn't particularly religious and had
rarely attended mosques with her husband.

So when he came home one day from work to see her wearing hijab, "I
thought it was a joke, that she was playing around," recalled her
husband, Keith Bryan. "To have that dramatic change was quite shocking."

Bryan, who sees himself as more spiritual than overtly religious,
wondered what friends and family would think.

I felt "kind of spinned off into a different life," Bryan said. "She's
going this way, and I'm headed this way. ... There was an uncertainty:
'What does that mean for our relationship?' "

Amen-Bryan's decision came after months of internal debate in which
she wrestled with questions about the meaning and purpose of life. The
grandchild of Lebanese immigrants, she was attending more mosque
events and associating more with religious women.

"The defining moment for me came when I realized how much legislation
had been developed and passed and how much this administration was
trying to convince the population that Islam is the enemy," said
Amen-Bryan, a mental health therapist. "And the more I saw that Islam
was being demonized in the media, the question I put to myself was,
... 'Are you going to take a stand?'"



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