For Woonona woman Fatima Panju, her hijab is a symbol of empowerment, not oppression.
The Islamic headscarf may be banned in French schools, the subject of workplace discrimination battles, and still raises eyebrows in some parts of Australia, but Ms Panju says she is proud to wear the hijab for herself and her religion.
A life coach by profession, Mrs Panju has decided to speak out about why she has chosen to embrace the headscarf.
Born and raised in Wollongong, the mother of two recently marked turning 40 by making a pilgrimage to Mecca – one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.
When she got home Mrs Panju decided to continue wearing the headscarf every day – because her religion tells her she must, but also because she is proud to represent her faith.
“It is a compulsion; it is something that is required of all Muslim women,” she said.
“I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m quite comfortable with who I am.
“I felt like it was time for the real me to come out, and for my daughters to see who I really am.
“It’s a shield, it brings me a lot of pleasure to represent Islam.”
But with Wollongong being a small town, she noticed quite a “mixed” reaction.
“When I stepped out into the world in my hijab for the first time I got comments like ‘you were the last person that we expected to [wear it]’,” she said.
“I just sort of smiled at that point and decided not to feel anything, because you can take it either way.”
But she found nothing but acceptance when she went for a haircut.
Total Bliss salon manager Roza Rojano offered her a private room to have her hair cut away from public eyes.
Ms Rojano did not need to be asked – it is a service she has provided often.
As for the criticism that Islam’s rules on headscarves discriminate against women, Mrs Panju disputes this strongly.
And she makes it clear the choice has been hers.
“In my family none of the women have been forced to do it,” she said. “It comes from the heart. I do know of other families where they’re forced to do it.
“In the Koran, men are also told to avert their gaze, so that’s also a ‘hijab’ for men.
“I feel empowered. I actually feel very proud of my decision and who I am.
“The hijab is not something that stands alone – it’s a package. It’s your manners, your behaviour – the hijab is just one part of who I am as a Muslim woman.”