From the Austrian news service Der Standard comes this story of prejudice against and stereotyping of women who wear the hijab in Austria. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
The Woman With the Hijab
by Güler Alkan March 31, 2010
Two Young Women Who Wear a Hijab Speak About Prejudice, Resentment and Their Views on Successful Integration
In the integration debate, the wearing of a hijab is often interpreted as a sign of “unwillingness to integrate,” because it is based on gender inequality. But what about women who say they do it of their own free will? And if, moreover, they speak excellent German and have completed higher education degrees? Two young women who wear a hijab, and do not fit into the pattern of suppression by father or husband, speak out.
The Cliché of the Foreigner
Esma and Meryem were born and raised in Austria. They speak perfect German and are studying at the University of Vienna. Esma is in Turkish Studies, Meryem in Education with a primary concentration in German. What do they have to say about hijab-wearers being oppressed? “It is a paradox. If that were true, I would not have the freedom to study or work,” responds Meryem, who also works at bfi [school for practical education to advance careers].
The Turkish Studies student thinks that it is equal treatment of natives and foreigners that causes anxiety. Previously, immigrants were subordinated. Today, they might do the same jobs as Austrians. She explains the strong resentment against immigrants as follows: “We are already integrated, but we stand behind our Turkish identity. I am not an Austrian. I am a Turk in Austria. That is disturbing.”
Integration With Hijab?
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These two students do not see the hijab as an obstacle to integration. “If I wear a hijab, that does not mean that I am any more a foreigner than anyone else,” Esma emphasizes. Both of them complain that the debate is really about religion, i.e., Islam, which is seen as an obstacle to integration.
Meryem does not understand why she as a person is reduced to religious faith: “There are things other than religion that go to make up a person.” The student of education is also sure that people would think differently of them, if they “were to get to know us better.” Do both sides want to get to know each other better? Their answer: “If they do not come to us, we will go to them.”