Hawzah News Agency (Christchurch, New Zealand) - A group of Muslim women in New Zealand have said they wear the hijab by choice, not because they're forced to, as they moved to clear up what they say is misunderstanding in the West of the headscarf worn by women of their faith.
In the wake of the March 15 terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, an image was shared around the world of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressing her compassion and support for the victims and their families by wearing a hijab.
What followed was a movement of women around the country wearing headscarves to show solidarity with the Muslim community, after 50 worshippers were killed and another 50 injured in the terrorist attack.
Not everyone felt comfortable about the movement, some labelling it "tokenism" and others saying it was "counterproductive" when in some parts of the world the hijab is forced on millions of oppressed women.
Three New Zealand Muslim women, Senior Lecturer AUT University Amira Hassouna, project coordinator Latifa Daud and Auckland University student Zainab Baba, told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp they wear the hijab by choice.
"Seeing those headlines from time to time, often people take away from that, that that's what Islam is about," Ms Baba said.
"And unfortunately they start viewing all Muslim women as being forced into wearing what they're wearing, and [saying] 'they are oppressed' and all of that. But for so many Muslim women it's actually an informed decision," she said.
Ms Baba said the hijab has been banned in a few countries now on the grounds that it's oppression and that women are being forced into wearing it.
"But it kind of becomes the same thing when you're forcing someone to wear it, or forcing someone to take it off. So I think that's quite a parallel that people don't seem to realise - they think they're giving people freedom, but what about the millions of women who actually want to wear the hijab?
"I think that there's obviously huge misunderstanding maybe of what the hijab actually entails. And it's not just a piece of fabric that women wear on their head. It's the way they treat others, it's the way they live their lives and it's really just meant to be a representation of what Islam actually asks us all to do."