The clothes do not make the woman, but they can make an impact during a job interview. Self-expression is a typical explanation for low-riding jeans and funky shoes as much as it is for body piercings and hair color. Yet Islamic women who choose to make an unconventional statement with their attire typically encounter prejudice, unfair treatment and even fear. This is common for Muslim women who wear “hejab,” a headscarf tied under their chin, and loose fitting clothing to cover everything but their face, hands and feet.

“My heart is not ready … for the burden of interacting with people in public places with hejab on,” says Paige Robbins, a Woodlawn resident and local music therapist. “I have to be ready for people looking at me like I’m a terrorist. They’ll look at me like they’re afraid of me. I might lose clients at work. I’ll have to stand up for my beliefs — vocally. Right now, people don’t know I’m Muslim.”

Robbins converted to Islam earlier this year, but her perspective isn’t unique to converts.

Iman Bedawi, from West Chester, was born to Egyptian parents and was educated in the American public school system. She attended Islamic religious classes on the weekends, where she learned that hejab was obligatory according to Islam, but there was never any imposition of the rules. Bedawi’s mother didn’t don the Islamic headscarf until Bedawi was 7 or 8 years old.

“A lot of women don’t understand that, when they’re interviewing, their physical appearance has a lot of bearing and that is really demeaning,” Bedawi says. “It’s none of their business how I dress if I have the right qualifications (for a job).”


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