Nadiya Hussain's 'poignant' reasons for choosing to wear a hijab resonate after burkini ban

'It was something that I found myself and the first part of me finding religion,' baking star says

Nadiya Hussain
Nadiya Hussain

Ever since emerging as ultimate star baker in the Great British Bake Off, Nadiya Hussain has established herself as one of the most high-profile hijab-wearing Muslim women in Britain.

On Wednesday evening, viewers of her new programme The Chronicles of Nadiya watched her explain why she made a personal decision to wear the hijab.

Her comments are particularly relevant after being broadcast on the same day a woman was forced to remove her burkini on the beach by armed police after a controversial new law banning full body swim-suits on beaches was introduced in a number of French towns.

Immediately after the premiere of this year’s GBBO, the first part the programme aired on the BBC, documenting the baker’s re-tracing of her roots in Bangladesh.

Hussain spoke about why she chose to cover her hair and wear a hijab while out shopping for clothes with her cousin. The 31-year-old made a choice to wear the hijab when she was 14 and was keen to stress that her decision to cover her hair was precisely that - a choice.

“It’s not specifically because I came from a religious family, in fact, I think I came from quite the opposite,” she said. “It was something that I found myself and the first part of me finding religion, that as the first act that I actually did, it was to cover my hair. And I realised the importance and significance.”

Hussain has spoken before about noticing a spike in racial abuse when terror attacks happen and in the programme questioned why, after these events, she should be made to feel insecure over her headscarf or change herself when she has done nothing wrong.

“When something has been polarised by the media or an event, there’s a fear of ‘Oh my god, I’m wearing something that everyone’s going to look and say ‘we blame you’’ and that fear of being chastised or being criticised or being blamed for something we’re not responsible for."

Hussain’s cousin chipped in: “We didn’t do anything wrong so why should we change ourselves?"

Hussain said that in actual fact, the increased prejudices that come her way actually serve to fuel her belief in wearing the hijab. “I think it strengthens my belief in who I am and the choices that I make.”

Following her remarks, a number of people praised them and said they were "massively poignant" in light of current events:

A number of high-profile individuals including Sarah Silverman, JK Rowling and James O’Brien have spoken out against the Burkini ban and today in London a group of protesters headed down to the French embassy for a “Wear what you want Beach Party” in solitude with Muslim women.

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