For many hijabi Muslim women in Australia, going to the hairdressers is no longer impossibleو thanks to a Melbourne stylist who has created a safe space for them to remove their hijab safely and have their hair cut, SBS reported.
“I’ve gone to hairdressers and actually asked them ‘can you just style my hair in the back?’” Zulfiye Tufa, 29, recalled as she spent years cutting her own hair, unable to find a salon in Melbourne willing to offer a private space for her to remove her headscarf.
“But they weren’t really accommodating, they just looked at me like I was kind of crazy – and I don’t blame them, because I guess they didn’t understand, and if you don’t understand it can’t make sense to you,” she said.
Things changed when she discovered Neel Morley – the owner of Australia’s first curly hair salon Neel Loves Curls – who recently started closing his doors to the general public for special ‘headscarf days’.
As one of his clients, Tufa expressed that “it was nice to have a place I could go and relax, let them do what they were doing, and trust them fully – that was the best part for me.”
“There was still a general lack of understanding over why and when Muslim women wear headscarves. It’s because whenever people see us, we’re wearing it, and when they see us the next day, we’re wearing it, so they just assume we even wear it in the shower,” she joked.
Every few months, Morley sends himself home, brings in a team of all-female stylists, and creates a safe space in Melbourne’s Fitzroy for Muslim women to remove their headscarves and be pampered.
“We now do them every few months on a Sunday and Monday, we give people two months’ notice, and they just book out so quickly,” Morley explained. The salon has hosted three lots of headscarf days so far and plans to hold more in the future.
Born in Britain, Morley arrived in Australia back in 2004 and quickly became known as ‘the curly hair man’. He opened his salon in 2014 and says “it has been fully-booked ever since. But 2018 saw receiving more and more requests to offer a safe space for Muslim women to get their hair done.”
“I just can’t imagine being in your 40s and never having had a decent haircut before, and a lot of the women who come in say they would have to just trim it themselves or get a close friend to do it,” he said.
Stylist Christine Pike said: “the service was so simple to offer, yet so hard to find. Besides from us creating a discrete space – we pull the blinds down at the front and put a covering over the door so we’re enclosed and not visible from the street – it was exactly the same as any other day in the salon.”
She continued that “When I work, I just like people to feel comfortable, so it was just getting on with the normal conversation, and only in very few cases did the scarf even come into the conversation.”
“It’s a double whammy because they can’t find anyone who can cut curly hair, but they also need private spaces where their cultural differences are respected,” she said.
“Being able to offer a curly haircut and space where someone could just come and have their needs observed respectfully with no drama was wonderful, and we were on the receiving end of a lot of gratitude – they were such a lovely bunch of women.”
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Though this initiative of ‘Muslim women salon’ seems to be unique in Australia, it is not the first worldwide.
In 2017, a Muslim women-only beauty salon opened in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, offering hijabi women a place where they can safely let their hair down without fear of any privacy intrusion.
Another salon for Muslim women opened last February in Massachusetts, becoming the state’s first salon and spa established specifically for Muslim women.