Canadian Muslims can’t imagine having to choose between a hijab and going to school

Students at Ryerson University share their thoughts on the hijab ban in public schools in France, where there have been calls to extend the restrictions to universities.3

Canadian-born children of immigrants are top students at Ryerson University:

Mariam Nouser: 20, daughter of an Egyptian and an Irish immigrant. A third-year mechanical engineering student, with a minor in Spanish and entrepreneurship and innovation. She wants to start her own business.

“I started wearing the hijab after I finished high school. It was a way to start a new life and reclaim my Muslim self. I have a dual identity. I cannot imagine not wearing it. If I couldn’t go to school with my hijab, then my God-given talents would be wasted. I have experienced some harassment but I felt confident enough to report it to the police.”

Tasneema Ahmed: 21, daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants. Occupational health and safety student, with a minor in human resources.2

“I started wearing the hijab in Grade 7. I went to a Catholic high school and nobody bothered me at all. I was a track athlete and very social, with good grades. The hijab is just part of my dress
code, like wearing jeans. I cannot imagine living in a country like France where they don’t let students wear one. In Toronto you see so much diversity, although there are still incidents of bigotry. Like a guy on the subway called me a terrorist.”4

Bashra Tahan: 19, daughter of professional Lebanese immigrants. A chemical engineering student, she wants to work in a water-treatment facility.

“In high school, I didn’t have any problems. Here on campus, I tell my classmates, I will be right back, I just have to go pray and they are understanding. Toronto is very open. Our religion really values education. If I had to choose between wearing a hijab and going to school, like in France, I would leave the country.”

Maheen Wasti: 18, daughter of a Pakistani engineer, who now drives a taxi. A chemical engineering student, she wants to work in a chocolate factory or in manufacturing.1

 “Our parents worked so hard and we have to give back. We take nothing for granted. I went to a Catholic school and was exposed to so many
different religions. We celebrated all the holidays. I have had no discrimination here because of my hijab. It is surprising that such a developed and famous country like France forbids the hijab.” (Courtesy Toronto Star)
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