Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2017 Finalist Entries

What Matters? Finalists 2017

2017 What Matters? TAS Year 7/8 Winner


Aasia Shigri

Ogilvie High School

I could see clearly it in her eyes, the way she glanced at me. That is how I knew that the following question would be incredibly important. That the words that would fall from her lips momentarily would reshape my life forever. That it would flip the whole world upside down with its revolutionary meaning.

Her hand carefully reached out towards my shoulder, her face painted with determination and a hint of astonishment as she dropped her fingers with such elegance, such poise on my skin before saying,

“Aasia, why do you have a towel on your head?!?”


Just to put this out there, the thing that I wear on my head is not a towel or a rag, and it most certainly is not there because I secretly have devoted my life to serve Voldemort, my one and only master who I have hidden under the said rag.

It is called a hijab.

I have been wearing the hijab for around four or so year (out of my own choice) so consequently, I have become used to the perplexed glazes and stereotypes that come with it.

I get labels such as ‘terrorist’ and ‘Satan worshipper’ thrown at me callously by people who do not even know what my name is. I guess Osama’s daughter is enough of a label for them to address me as.

I get sympathetic and hostile looks directed towards me because people think that it is enforced by my parents or some other higher authority to wear it.

I have been told that I am oppressed. I have been told to be depressed about my so-called ‘oppression’. And when I declare that I am content and proud of who I am, I am told that I radical. That I am brainwashed and need ‘saving’.

And here’s the thing, a lot of people confuse the concept of the hijab with oppression. They see it as a symbol of grave unjustness and think that anyone who wears it upon their head has never been exposed to the experience of freedom before.

But in fact, it is the opposite.

Now, I cannot speak on behalf of all Muslim women, and this opinion piece is not me stating that the hijab has never been used in means to oppress, but I am simply offering my perspective.

To me, the hijab is an act of self-ownership and liberation. By obscuring my physical features from those around me, I am saying: “I alone own my body, and you have no right to me.” It demands respect; it tells you to judge me by my character, my action, my brain and individuality.

Earlier this year, a pregnant woman wearing a hijab in England got attacked on the streets to the point where she miscarried. And this is just one of the many Islamophobic acts that have occurred against a visible Muslim.

Nobody should ever feel as though the thing that empowers them is being taken away. Nobody should ever feel alienated because of how they conduct themselves and their beliefs, and nobody should EVER get physically or verbally attacked for being proud of the way they express themselves.

So please, let me label myself. Let me define myself and what liberates me. Let me choose for myself as to what it is that I want to embody. Let me choose my purpose without being hunted down and abused like cattle. Because after all, my love for my hijab, for my faith, is my right, my choice, my life. And it matters to me.

Jenna Beck