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Courting confidence

Starting forward was hesitant to wear a hijab at first, but says it’s part of who she is now and her peers are supportive.

February 05, 2009|By Mike Sciacca

If you didn’t know better, you’d think it’d take Ahllam Berri a littler longer than most players to put on her game face.

White Under Armour leggings and top: check.

Uniform: check.

Shoes: check.

Focused mind set: check.

White hijab: check.

“Hijab?”

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Yes, the hijab — a traditional garment or head cover for Muslim women — has distinguished the starting forward from the rest of her teammates on the Laguna Beach High girls’ basketball team.

Make that, has distinguished the senior from all players on the court the past two-plus years.

“It takes me about five to 10 minutes to get ready for a game. That’s it,” she said. “It doesn’t take me that long to put on my head scarf. I put a head band on first, wrap the scarf around, tie it in the back, slip it down and pin it under my chin. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s simple, really.”

Berri, 17, has been wearing the hijab since she was 15. A Muslim girl, she said, starts to wear the headdressing when she turns 9.

“It is expected in the religion to wear it when a girl turns 9, but it is your choice,” Berri said. “My parents never pushed me to wear it, although my mom always reminded me that someday I would wear it.

“Now, it’s a part of who I am. I wear it all day at school and wear it when there are men not related to me are around. Even my male cousins cannot see me without it. I don’t take it off until I’m in my room at home.”

She said she can be seen most days on campus in jeans and a loose, long-sleeved shirt, wearing her head scarf.

Berri, born in Fountain Valley, moved to Laguna Beach before the start of her freshman year. She said she didn’t wear her head scarf her first year at Laguna Beach High due to insecurities.

“I wasn’t too sure about wearing it when I started high school,” she remembered. “I wanted to wear it, but I was just insecure about it. After my freshman year I decided, on my own, to start wearing it. I began to grow up personally and gained confidence. I came into my sophomore year wearing it, without warning anyone at school. When kids at school saw me, they asked questions like, ‘why are you wearing that?,’ or, ‘how come you didn’t wear it before?’

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