Remona Aly
Sunday 14 February 2010 The Guardian

Hijab-wearing women rock!

God gave rock’n’roll to you! So US rock band Kiss chanted in the early 90s, a cover of the original song by British group Argent. My relationship with this “divine” gift started early. At 12, I riffled through my brother’s vinyl collection and emerged a fan of U2, Faith No More and Led Zeppelin.

Recently, aged 31, I set out in my coolest headscarf to see the best live band in the world: Muse, on their Resistance Tour. I looked around, but spotted not one of my species – an “undercover Muse-lim”, as one friend dubs me. But there are others.

Shabana, a solicitor and mother of three, has listened to rock music for as long as she has worn a headscarf. She has dragged her husband to a Jon Bon Jovi gig; her son has taken up electric guitar. “People are always surprised to find out about my rock collection,” she says. “They take one look at my headscarf and assume I’ll be into choir music!” I know the feeling.

So does Arub, an architecture student and Kerrang! subscriber, who says that she and nearly all her hijab-wearing friends would rather listen to Linkin Park than shallow pop. “Rock appeals because it rebels against the norm, it sells on the angst of not belonging – something women in hijab relate to,” she says. “It’s the natural choice for a hijabi.”

Arub’s words strike a chord. When, at 18, I decided to wear a headscarf, some friends said I would belong even less to a country where I was born, bred and buttered. But being in a minority can give confidence: I was surer of my identity and even of my Britishness. I feel the relevance of rock instinctively as lyrics from my album collection pulsate in my head: “I will never know myself until I do this on my own . . . I will break away, I’ll find myself today”; “Don’t be afraid of what your mind conceives /Stand up for what you believe.”

The call of rebellion, the claim for independence: there is an affinity between rock music and those like me, Shabana and Arub – women secure in both their faith and music taste.

This article was originally published in The Guardian on 14 February 2010. To view it click here.