A hundred headscarves in Dutch glossy

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

A unique magazine has just been launched in the Netherlands: the Head Book, a glossy all about Muslim headscarves. Contrary to general belief, this piece of clothing is nearly always worn voluntarily.

Nine out of ten Muslim women in the Netherlands decide for themselves whether or not to wear a headscarf, according to a survey to mark the magazine’s launch. One of them is the Dutch-Moroccan journalist Boutaine Azzabi. Her enormous collection of headscarves ranges from traditional to fashionable and colourful. In the Head Book, Azzabi models 100 of her headscarves and shares the stories behind them.

A shirt addiction, a handbag addiction – we’ve heard about them before. But apparently it is also possible to have a passion for headscarves. Jan Knaap, who initiated the Head Book project, knows this from experience.

“For a short time, I had a Moroccan child minder who wore a headscarf and I noticed that she had so many different headscarves. I started to wonder how many she actually had.”

It turned out she had 50. Mr Knaap asked girls working in the supermarket the same question. Some of them turned out to have more than a hundred. Mr Knaap:

“These girls have a lot more headscarves than the average Dutch person imagines, which made me think. Especially as my friends and acquaintances believe Muslim women have 4 or 5 headscarves or one for every day of the week at the most. This is characteristic of the one-sided image of the garment. It is seen as a symbol of oppression. This project is meant to broaden that image. There are more truths than one.”

Headscarf debate
The headscarf is still a topic of much debate in the Netherlands. Can a women be refused a job because of her headscarf? Should girls be allowed to wear headscarves at school? The anti-Islam party Freedom Party (PVV) even proposed the introduction of a ‘headscarf tax’. The proposal turned out to be hot air.

Six out of ten Dutch Muslim women between the ages of 15 and 35 wear a headscarf. Most women make a conscious decision whether or not to wear one around the age of 19. Apparently, mothers do not have much influence; in only half of the Muslim families where the mother wears a headscarf do the daughters follow her example. And daughters make different choices: one of them may decide to wear a headscarf, the other may not.

Haute couture
Jan Knaap noticed that many Muslim women were very enthusiastic about the idea of a glossy about the headscarf. But in the end they decided they didn’t want to pose. But Bouaine Azzibi was prepared to show her whole collection.

The headscarf is a visible sign showing someone’s identity or religion. But it is also a fashion accessory that doesn’t always come cheap. Fashion houses like Chanel and Gucci have already discovered the market and are selling haute couture scarves.


See also: Cup of Culture
Photographer's homepage: Sander Stoepker
Head Book homepage: Hoofdboek 
Link to: Facebook