Being a Muslim woman in Australia can come with assumptions and stereotypes.
They can range from faith, to the hijab (headscarf), to identity.
We asked five Muslim women the questions they get asked the most, and how they’ve answered them.
Why do you wear a hijab (headscarf)?
When Ann Mohamed first moved to Australia from Singapore, she found it easy to blend in because of the way she dressed.
It wasn’t until four years ago that she found herself having difficult conversations — because she decided to don the hijab.
Married to a white Australian, she sometimes got questions from her husband’s family.
She saw this as an opportunity to educate and raise awareness about Islam.
“My nephews and nieces would ask: ‘Why do you put this on Auntie Ann? Why do you suddenly want to cover your hair?'”
“Now [that] they understand, they’re slowly learning about why we have to fast, why we celebrate Eid.”
She found it a bit more challenging when it came to talking to her in-laws about it.
Ms Mohamed had to explain that the decision did not change who she was on the inside.
“I’ve changed, but I’m still Ann and I’m still part of the family,” she says.
“I’m still who I was before the physical change in appearance.
Can you be Muslim and Australian?
Umber Rind is a proud Yamatji woman from Badimia country in Western Australia.
The community of people who are both Indigenous and Muslim is small.
Navigating both identities also comes with its own challenges.
“As an identifiable Muslim woman who wears a hijab, I am subject to the general Islamophobia that exists in Australia,” says the Melbourne-based GP.
“I had to fight to be able to keep my hijab on during surgical procedures and as a result of my presence, it created new infection control guidelines in the hospitals I worked in.”
Besides Islamophobia, Dr Rind also had to endure racism in her workplace and within her own community.
“When I spoke about my [Indigenous] background amongst fellow Muslims, I was ridiculed and made fun of.
“I also have faced anti-Aboriginal sentiment at workplaces, with fellow doctors making racist comments.”
While she struggled with her identity growing up, she eventually learned to love and accept herself.
Dr Rind believes more needs to be done to make sure the Australian identity represents all Australians.
“I think when the wider Australian community starts to be more inclusive and the ‘Australian Identity’ is relatable to everyone, regardless of [skin] colour, then things may change.”
Are you allowed to date?
Fadia Mohamed has dealt with misconceptions on dating as a Muslim woman.
“People think dating is almost like an engagement,” she says.
Ms Mohamed has worn the hijab since a very young age, but she explains that wearing it does not obliterate the concept of dating.
Instead, the hijab helps single out people who are genuine in getting to know her and respect her religious beliefs and personal boundaries.
The hijab also boosts her confidence in meeting people and does not restrict her options in dating.
“In Islam, the girl can say ‘no’ and she can marry [a person of] any race, any type and any cultural background,” the university student says.
“Sometimes people take culture as the religion, when it is completely separate.”
Why did you choose to be Muslim?
Raised in a Protestant Christian household, Nikol Kadlecikova only came to know more about Islam while backpacking across Asia in 2016.
Her first stop was Malaysia, a country where Muslims form the majority.
Her spiritual journey began with a tourist trip to the mosque.
Her research into Islam uncovered a strong resonance with her personal beliefs.
But being a Muslim who does not fit stereotypes has sparked difficult questions.
Ms Kadlecikova only wears the headscarf during the holy month of Ramadan but she practices her religion in other ways such as fasting and praying.
“I’ve been asked, why do I choose to follow the religion, if I am not ready to fully participate?” she says.
Despite that, she has found support from imams (mosque leaders) and the women in her community who have reassured her that her journey is her own.
How can we bridge the gap?
Speech pathologist Rheme El-Hussein teams up with her husband to host annual open days at Al-Sadiq mosque in Melbourne.
Both her professional and volunteer work is dedicated to helping foster an understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The open day gives people an opportunity to break bread together and exchange questions and answers.
“I think in a country like Australia, where we live in a really multicultural society, it’s so important that we do things like this, because, you know, we’re a family,” she says.