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 class.


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