We were finally able to get our interview with Singapore hijab fashion entrepreneur Azlinah from Vharda. Here in her own words is her story.
My name is Noor Azlinah Bte Odenan. But you can just call me Azlinah. I do live here in Singapore, but dont get it wrong, Singapore is not a ‘Chinese’ country. It’s actually a multi-racial country where the Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians live. I’m Malay.
Singapore is also a multi-religious country as well. (About 15% are Muslims and majority of the Muslims are Malays) That’s just a short introduction about my country.
I’m a 19 year old undergraduate student majoring in Banking and Finance. I started to work on Vharda after I started college last year, which is when I decided to wear hijab full-time.
The society here is very modern and the youths (even Muslims) are very into fashion where looking hip and cool is important and wearing the hijab is so called uncool (as you are deemed to be such a goodie two shoes). I’ve always wanted to start wearing the hijab permanently but did not have the courage. Most of my girlfriends are non-Muslims. Even my two best friends are non-Muslims. And my friends who are Muslims, they do not wear the hijab. So i did not have much friends to gain support from when I wanted to start wearing the hijab.
The change started soon after I started college. As we no longer need to wear a school uniform (we have to wear them all through grade school and high school), I found that a perfect reason to start wearing the hijab on a full-time basis. But the main underlying reason is that I’ve always wanted to change and try to improve myself to become a better muslim. I would say initially it does feel weird wearing it especially when you are the only one covering your hair in a big lecture hall. But I guess it felt natural after that and I would say that I am very proud to be wearing it now.
My main reason and aim of setting up Vharda is to promote the hijab especially amoung the youths. I find that the youth are so influenced by the media and the fashion industry that they are becoming less and less interested in Islamic teachings. Thus, my aim is to show to the youth and the world that we can be trendy and in tune with the fashion industry but still be in sync with our religion. I personally do not think that it is wrong to be fashionable so long that your dressing is modest and is within the teachings of Islam. I will put in every effort I can to change the mentality of these Muslim youth. Also, I set up Vharda to be a pillar of support for sisters out there who have always wanted to start wearing the hijab but have still not found the courage or support.
I am pretty lucky to be in a country where we can live peacfully despite the different religions. My friends who majority are non-Muslims did intially ask me why I started wearing the hijab. It was hard at first because they kept asking questions about hijab. And some of my friends would ask me why the rest of our Muslim friends aren’t wearing it and why I felt that I had to wear it. But they acceptedd my change.
My friends still treats me just the same. And my best friends even said that they think the hijab is really pretty!
I’ve always thought that if I were to start wearing the hijab, my friends and other people would start reacting differently to me. But I guess in firendships, it’s never about how one looks, but about who you are as a person. And I’m thankful to have friends who are such cool and nice people.
My advice for girls who’d like to dress with style even with hijab is to be confident about yourself. Because it is not just about how you look, but far more importantly it’s how you carry yourself and let your personality shines through.
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