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CAIRO — Canada is home to some 700,000 Muslims. Ramzah Khan was only 12 when she chose to put on a hijab. Now at 17, the young Canadian says that decision has blessed her life in so many ways. "It has made me a stronger person," Khan told the Calgary Herald on Tuesday, April 15.
She recognizes donning the hijab was no easy step. Though her mother and sister were both hijab-clad, Khan was the first in her circle of friends to opt for the Muslim headscarf. Hijab, Why? Hijab: Always A Woman’s Business?
She still recalls the long nights she spent nervous and worried about how her friends would react. While there were some who didn't understand, most of them were supportive.
"You find out who your real friends are."
Five years later, the Calgary high school student says hijab is a source of identity, pride and a tool of developing her personality. "It has made me realize that looks aren't everything. It has made me look beyond that, even with other people."
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations. Some 700,000 Muslims live in Canada, making less than two percent of the country's 32.8 million population. Islam has become the number one non-Christian faith in Canada.
For Hanan Qasqas, 16, hijab brings a sense of serenity and mental peace. "Internally I feel very blessed having this piece of scarf around my face," she told the Herald.
Like Khan, wearing hijab was a personal choice. Qasqas, a Canadian-born of Palestinian origin, was about 11 when she decided to don the headscarf. Now a high school student, she believes hijab has blessed her life.
She says that the modesty that goes with wearing hijab has brought a mental relief that protected her from many of the stress and challenges of her age. "I know when I wear this, I just feel content and I feel very peaceful."
Hijab has taken central stage in the West since France outlawed it in state schools in 2004.