A symbol of pride

Rehab Mamdouh Ahmed. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d427274
Rehab Mamdouh Ahmed. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d427274

The Caversham woman is an Australian citizen but has not always felt comfortable in public.

Ms Ahmed said coming to Perth from Egypt 13 years ago was tough because of world events.

‘I came to Australia at the wrong time; it was just after September 11, so I have been discriminated against a lot,’ she said.

‘In the street, I’ll be walking and people would put their fingers up and tell me to go home.

‘After the Bali bombings it was a disaster for me; I got very scared.’

The mother-of-three said she fell into depression, not wanting to go anywhere.

‘I felt I was being blamed for something I didn’t do,’ she said.

‘I felt shameful.’

Ms Ahmed, who works at ISHAR Women’s Health Centre, said now, after getting further education and mixing with Australian society, she was rarely discriminated against.

‘For me, the head scarf is a good symbol; I’m Muslim and proud,’ she said.

‘It symbolises a lot of things for me so I’m very proud to put it on.’

The 38-year-old said she did not understand why Muslim women were discriminated against when head scarves were worn by women in other religions in different ways, like Christian nuns and Jewish women.

Ms Ahmed said she understood a minority had created a negative stereotype, which had affected the wider community.

‘You can’t stereotype because someone did something wrong, it’s not the majority,’ she said.

Ms Ahmed, who is a foster carer and domestic violence victim support worker, said the perception that women were forced to wear a hijab was incorrect.

‘I chose to put the hijab on at 21, no one forced me,’ she said.

‘It was my decision and I have never regretted it. We are accepting and we respect others, so we need this back.’