Fareeza Ghani Ali agonized for more than a year before she began draping an Islamic head scarf over her hair.
Having grown up in Pembroke Pines, Ghani Ali was like many teenagers, frequenting parties and letting slip the occasional curse word. Her faith deepened soon after graduating from Florida International University, soshe told her family she intended to veil her hair.
"I wasn't sure if they would accept it or understand my decision," the 25-year-old Hollywood resident said. "When I first told my mom, she was afraid of the negative reaction I would get from people. She didn't want me to be a target" in a time of heightened public anxiety about Muslims since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
To her surprise, her decision earned the respect of friends and strangers.
"The next day, I walked into work and everyone was so receptive," said Ghani Ali, an advertising executive. "People are respectful."
Now, two years after Ghani Ali began wearing a head scarf, or hijab, her mother is considering following suit.
Ghani Ali's decision illustrates a broader shift in the past decade in South Florida, where religious scholars and clerics say more teenage Muslims at schools ranging from Nova Southeastern University in Davie to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton are opting for head scarves, sometimes before their mothers. . .
South Florida is home to 70,000 Muslims, up from about 35,000 a decade ago, according to the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (MORE)