Taranaki woman converts to Islam

Interesting piece in the Taranaki Daily News by Helen Harvey.  I Kiwi woman converts to Islam and shares the prejudice that she faces.

A Taranaki woman who has recently converted to Islam says she has been spat on, told to go back where she came from and, during a job interview, told to take off her hijab.

Cherie French did her shahada to convert to Islam last year and now wears a headcovering. A person becomes a Muslim by reciting the Shahada Islamic creed in Arabic.

She had previously worked in retail and last week she went for a job interview at Trick or Treat on Devon St, she said.

“I didn’t say anything about me being Muslim because it was pretty obvious. [The owner] said, can you take that off? It’s not allowed in the shop. I said it was because of my religion. She said, we have a policy there is no hats or sunglasses in the store.”

If you take on a religion that brings with it set of practices that are by and large foreign to the country you were born in, how do you expect people to react?  

French said the interview experience was “horrible”.

“I was quite surprised how much it did upset me. I don’t want to go anywhere now. I was angry as well, she was judging me just because of what I am wearing.”

She admits she took off her hijab when asked, because she really wanted the job. But she then regretted her action and put it back on before she left, she said.

After French told Kemp she was Muslim, she was told she couldn’t wear her hijab in the shop if she got the job, French said.

Life is full of choices, and certain choices come with consequences.

French, who was born in New Plymouth, has noticed an increase in negative comments in the 10 months she has been wearing the hijab, and more so in the wake of events last week in France.

She has been spat on while walking in the New Plymouth CBD and been given a shove on more than one occasion.

And when she was trying to pay for her groceries at a New Plymouth supermarket, she told the woman at the checkout she wanted to pay with both cash and her card.

She said she was told if she couldn’t make up her mind, to go back to her own country.

“I told her I was born here in New Plymouth. You are judging me because of what I’m wearing.”

French attended the mosque for a few years before she did her shahada, she said. And it’s been hard telling her Catholic and Anglican family.

Things have been a bit strained, but “they’ll get over it, eventually”.

Although I don’t condone the spitting, I think the answer lies in her own reaction:  She’ll get over it, eventually.

Everyone else is supposed to bend because she made a change in her life?  Get knotted.  And if you truly believe Allah is the the only true prophet and Islam the way to live your life, then this is part of the path he has chosen for you.  Harden up, stop running to the paper to tell tales of good Kiwi business people that are allowed to run their shops however they like, and if you are determined to be the wolf among the sheep, then accept that as the life you have chosen.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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