By ALYS GAGNON
In many ways, Kate Leaney is a pretty average 27-year-old Australian woman. She lives in Adelaide, holds down a full-time job, hangs out with friends and messes around on her social media in her quiet moments.
But last week was quite different for Kate for one big reason. Despite the fact that she’s a committed Christian, this week she has been wearing a headscarf.
This is no social experiment. It’s not an attempt for Kate to learn what it’s like for Muslim Australian woman who wear a veil. It’s not for an opinion piece in a daily newspaper. It’s not for religion reasons. For Kate, this is an act of solidarity with Muslim women in Australia.
“After the anti-terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane [earlier this month], so many of my friends expressed fear about leaving their homes wearing a hijab. They are really frightened about being in the community and wearing a hijab, because it’s so visible.
“I was really upset when my friend told me her mother was so afraid that she was considering removing her hijab in public for the first time in 40 years.”
Kate didn’t plan on wearing a headscarf for a week. “I got a bit ranty on Facebook and posted a photo of myself wearing a headscarf and got a lot of support from people. I wanted to say that you shouldn’t have to be afraid to wear a hijab. And from there the idea sort of grew.
“I just really wanted to do something for the people I love and care about so much.”
Nafisa Yussuf is a 25 year old woman. Her family moved to Melbourne from Somalia when she was 13 years old.
“I’ve being wearing the hijab since I was eleven years old. The hijab is part of me, part of my identity. It’s empowering that I choose to wear it. It signifies my faith.”
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Nafisa says that for the most part, she has positive experiences wearing the hijab.
“Usually people are curious, fascinated and want to learn more about it. Most people always comment on how pretty it is and the colours and styles I wear.
“On the other hand, I have had people call me terrorist and asked me if I’m forced to wear it out of ignorance. The ignorant comments such as ‘do you shower with it’ are very common.”
Over the past few weeks the Australian Government has announced new measures to combat terrorism in Australia, including creating new offences for Australians who travel to certain regions in the world.