Manar Khalil’s sister and mother proudly wear the hijab.
But the 12-year-old, who is obsessed with Disney’s Hannah Montana and High School Musical, is not ready to put on the head scarf worn by many Muslim females.
And the controversy swirling around another Azalea Middle school student who wears the hijab has worried her.
“I feel so bad for her right now,” said Manar, a seventh-grader. “I think ‘What if that were me?’ I’d be scared to show my face.”
Last week, 11-year-old Hannah Chehab alleged that a boy at Azalea ripped off her hijab and threatened to kill her. Pinellas County school officials said this week that they are investigating the complaint and how administrators responded amid contradictory details.
The incident underscores the delicate, often complex decision Muslim women make in deciding whether to don the hijab. Hannah’s plight has many bay area Muslim women and their daughters talking about the hijab. Ultimately, they say, it is an individual decision.
They realize it can make them targets.
“I just can’t see myself pumping gas down here at Lithia Pinecrest Road wearing the scarf,” said Joan Zaki, 46, an East Hillsborough County mother of three daughters.
“I have a friend who does that, and people shout out ‘Look at Osama’s wife!’ Do I have thick enough skin to handle that? I don’t,” said Zaki, who became a Muslim 18 years ago. . .
School officials in Pinellas and Hillsborough County have no record of any incidents involving Muslims girls and hijabs. Both counties also say they have cultural sensitivity training for teachers and employees.
The national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says hijab-related complaints are among the highest it gets from its constituents. Still, last year the group recorded 143 complaints, a 14 percent decrease from 2005. The group says it has focused education efforts on businesses and schools. (MORE)


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