100 Headscarves

Friday I went with A Georgia Peach to the Centraal Museum to see the new Bloemaert exhibit, and along the way got to see a few other exhibits and pieces that I didn’t realize were already on display. One of the exhibits was this collection of 100 photos of a woman wearing variations on the hoofddoek (headscarf), a topic of interest in the Netherlands — and other countries — as the discussion of Muslim identity and integration rages on. One of the elements of this exhibit was to show that the headscarf is usually worn by choice, and worn at a later age than people often think. The exhibit aims to educate and present thoughts on it by the women who wear the headscarf.


The main woman in the exhibit is Boutaïna Azzabi, born in 1984. She lives in Doha, Qatar, and Veghel, Netherlands (where she was born). She studies communications here in Utrecht, and works as a social media analyst for Al Jazeera. She eats halal kroket and Verkade cookies. She has a passion for travel and investigative journalism; listens to Adele; and finds the headscarf indispensable. The variety of scarves is beautiful, as are the different faces she makes in the photos. I think my favorite is the cheeky wink.

De Baas
Along with the photos, there are quotes from Azzabi on the walls. The one seen here says that there is the perception that women who wear the headscarf are suppressed. “Nonsense,” is Azzabi’s response, as she goes on to say that her mother is the real boss of the house.

Regardless of your personal choice and opinion on the issue, it is a nice exhibit to raise awareness and help people be a bit more informed when discussing the topic. For me, the headscarves are still something that I notice, simply because I rarely saw in the US. Yet more and more, they are becoming part of the general scenery as I become used to seeing them here. Certainly, the young girls I see wearing them — girls who look trendy and are outgoing and behaving exactly as teenage girls always do — enforce this idea that the headscarf itself is no big deal.

15 thoughts on “100 Headscarves

  1. Interesting idea to put the overly debated hijab (headscarf) in the spotlight in a more positive way like this. There’s still huge misconceptions and prejudices against Muslim people in general, and Muslim women (who are identifiable as such when wearing the headscarf) in particular, going on in this country unfortunately. Especially in Utrecht, where whole area’s of the city are condemned as “bad” neighbourhoods simply because of the large number of immigrants living in them. Prejudice is still rife, when actually, lots of young women wearing the headscarf are well educated and very much of the modern world. There was even a heated debate concerning a so-called “kopvoddentax” (literally “taxation for head rags”). Ridiculous and very discriminatory.

  2. An interesting post. It will take a lot, though, to counter my immediate visceral prejudices. It doesn’t hurt that she’s so stunningly beautiful. She’d look good in anything —

  3. I saw this exhibition on the Centraal Museum post and I also liked the one where she winks best. She wears an orange dutch headscarf in that one. I wonder if that was deliberate.

    And I agree she is just stunning and would good in anything.

    The problem in my opinion is not with the headscarf but with the more extreme style of dress that covers women head to toe. Even when I lived briefly in the mideast it was seen as too much and I only really noticed people working in markets and poorer areas wearing them. I think this sort of dress dates back to the nomadic tribes when men dressed their woman in this way to try and not attact attention from bandits. There is no requirement in isalm to wear this kind of thing! The religion only says dress modestly.

    Anyway, there are no bandits out to steal woman nowadays so there’s no need for it in my opinion. Also, people like to see eachother when they speak and greet eachother and this gets in the way. The lady in the exhibition would not be able to do any of these pretty expressions had she worn the full dress.

    Equally it’s stupid to have a government telling you how to dress. I think it will get phased out as time goes by. People just integrate naturally I think.

    I’m waffling a bit.

  4. I do have my own personal issues with the ideas of clothing/dress being dictated by religion or government, but the general head scarf isn’t something I’m going to get in a fuss about. I do agree with you, Kal, that the full face covering goes too far, especially in modern culture. There are certain situations where it’s just inappropriate, particularly, as you point out, when it’s not actually mandated.

    I remember the discussion over the headscarf tax last year and hated it. All it does is feed the fires of fear and distrust. The more you enforce the idea that something is “different”, the more people are nervous and lash out against it, without bothering to learn anything. In reality, I’m sure that most people would soon realize that these people they fear aren’t usually that different. Every group has its extremists, but the vast majority are normal, decent folk.

  5. Honestly, most of the Muslim girls and young women I’ve seen are dressed so fashionably, that a lot of people can take a few notes from them.
    I have no problem with the headscarf, the niqab is something else.

    Though I have to say I really had to roll me eyes when the PVV pushed for the ban of these, considering there have been about 6 known cases of women wearing one in the whole country! What do you mean making a mountain out of a molehill!

    • Truly, a lot of the girls are so stylish! But yeah, I’ve yet to see anyone here in the full niqab, although I actually did see a couple of women who wore it at the Dollar Store in my neighborhood in Queens, NY. I was particularly surprised to see them, since they were actually working there. Of course, the PVV and politicians like them just like to get people riled up over things that are irrelevant. Ah, politics.

      • I’ve seen 2 women dressed in the niqab in the whole 12 years I’ve studied and lived in Utrecht, and before that, never anywhere in the country. I actually struck up a conversation with the second young woman I saw, because I sat next to her on the bus. She spoke fluent, accentless Dutch and seemed as well-spoken and modern as any young woman. I didn’t ask why she chose to cover up herself (even wearing long gloves so her arms and hands wouldn’t show) but I was really curious about it.

  6. I’ve wanted to see that exhibit and now I surely will! People need to let the headscarf debate go. Seriously- I’ve known a number of women who wear them and as far as I could tell based on conversation, meeting their partners/families, it was most definitely their choice. The director of M’s creche was a young woman born in NL but of Moroccan decent- full on head scarf and clothes which covered all but her hands. She was working on her PhD, not married and fully supported by her quite traditional father and 3 brothers. Who cares anyway? No one makes as big a stink over Orthodox Jewish women being ‘forced’ to wear a wig over their real hair or dresses all the time. Way too much judgement passed on Muslims, period.

    • It’s a small exhibit, but worth seeing. Let me know if you want company. I’d like to go back. As you said, no one makes a fuss about Orthodox Jewish women’s coverage, not to mention other religions, including Christianity. Everyone’s got their own rules to one degree or another.

  7. If you want to go sometime, I’d like to go and see the exhibition as well so let me know and maybe we could go together.


  8. Hi!

    I thought asking to go together might be a bit weird, since obviously you don’t know me 🙂 But why not. I have lots of free time at the moment, so just let me know when you would be free ok?


  9. I’m not an expat though 🙂 Friday next week I will be free, this Friday I already have other plans. And during weekends I’m usually away so that’s not really a good time for me…

    • I think next Friday should be fine for me, or any other day during the week, probably. Let me know what time/day is best for you and we’ll sort it out from there. Feel free to e-mail me. My address is in the About section.

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