Last month, the French Parliament adavota in favor of banning girls under the age of 18 from wearing the hijab in public places.
It was the latest in a series of anti-Semitic laws aimed at ending religious “riots” in France, which according to opponents has not moved a minority of Muslims to the country.
Somali-Norwegian national Rawdah Mohamed responded by posting on the Instagram page criticizing the ban by writing the words “Take off the hijab” on his hands, saying in the picture: “The only way to end hate crime and violence.”
The ban should not continue, but development has sparked a French controversy over Muslim clothing.
Recently, the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab, as well as his French translation #PasToucheAMonHijab, which aired on television, and was shared far and wide by the likes of Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and US congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mohamed said he wanted to fight the “very strong ideology” against Muslim women, who are hoping to “unite” in their efforts to fight Islamophobia.
Al Jazeera: What was your intention with sending my Hands on the Hijab?
Rawdah Mohamed: It was frustrating because I could see it all unfolding. Not only this [hijab ban] event, but many other events before.
Muslim women are always left out of the discussion, no one asks us what we think. You are always quiet, and you have people to talk to. I just got to the point where I felt: Well, I have to take this in my hands and do what I can.
Muslim women are often tortured or treated like criminals. I want to show that there are real women whose lives are affected by this.
I also set out to unite Muslim women, as it is lonely when you are beaten so often. If you look at the television and what politicians are saying, and you are a girl trying to find your name, it will seem like the whole world is against you. I want young girls to know that it’s hard outside, but if we work together we can fight this.
Al Jazeera: Has things gotten worse for Muslim women in recent years?
Mohamed: I think politicians have found a new kind of “escape code”. They know they can get the votes they would like to change the public interest against Muslim women. And if it works for one politician, then another, it follows.
The world has become especially hostile toward us in recent years. I think there is a dangerous, racist, anti-Muslim ideology that is happening in Europe now.
I also believe that it is because so many Muslim girls want to have a job and participate in society … Some like me are trying to take the place we think we deserve.
If you grew up in Europe, you feel free, and you can be anyone you want. So when you get to a certain age, and you feel like, oh, everybody has a right, but not you, I enlighten you.
Al Jazeera: Do you face discrimination in fashion?
Mohamed: When I go to a fashion show, I have to get a ticket when I enter. Because they don’t believe that I can really be a Muslim mother. Sometimes they don’t let me in even though I have an ID. That’s why I have to make a phone call to contact those inside the show, and they have to come out to let me in. This has happened to me many times. And one time, I missed the show because it took so long [to let me in].
Al Jazeera: What good experiences do you have as an example?
Mohamed: In the fashion world everyone enjoys the way I dress, the way I dress, and I don’t just look like wearing a hijab – everyone just sees me for who I am. And I’m very liberating this way.
Then you will come out with hair that you made with your friends and good people who understand you. Then you come out in a group where it’s very different, where people see you as an oppressed person, someone who needs to be released, without ignoring your personality.
Al Jazeera: Do you have any hope for a new generation of Muslim girls?
Mohamed: There is so much courage and fire in the younger generation, and I am so happy that everyone is so angry with this [French Senate vote] and they are doing some of this, and making all this information and people are discussing these problems when they have never been before.
Being 20 years old and talking to your 50 year old boss is hard, but this is starting to happen. It gives me great hope, to see young people … fighting for equality for all.
Editor’s Note: Some sections of this questionnaire have been modified to make it concise and concise.