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Girls & Women

Iowa’s First Hijab-Wearing Beauty Pageant Contender Has Big Plans

In just the last two years, the first hijab-wearing athlete on the US Olympic team competed in fencing, top fashion brands have begun selling hijabs, and even Barbie introduced a hijabi doll.

Now, in the latest sign that hijabs are becoming more culturally accepted in the US, Iowa’s first hijab-wearing beauty pageant contestant will compete in the state’s teen pageant for a chance to make it to the national competition.

Nadine Qadoura, a 16-year-old senior at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, is hoping to dispel prejudices through her newfound visibility.

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“I was glad because I wanted to be in this competition for many reasons,” Qadoura told KCRG-TV. “One of the reasons is to bust all the misconceptions about young women in this state, the misconception that, the notion that, if you’re hijabi you’re oppressed. I think in this way I’m going to represent what is it really to be a hijabi.”

Qadoura has already distinguished herself in her studies.

She’s planning to graduate early and is a member of both the National Honor Society and her school’s international club, according to KCRG-TV. She also spends her free time kickboxing and volunteering at a local hospital.

The competition takes place June 9-10, after Qadoura plans to graduate from high school.

Read More: American Eagle Features Hijab-Wearing Model in Their Latest Campaign

While her story is typical of a striving high school student, it’s taking place during a highly politicized cultural moment in the US.

Over the past two years, hate crimes against Muslims have increased and the majority of Americans have negative attitudes toward Muslims.

US President Donald Trump has been fanning these hostilities with policies that target Muslims and with disparaging rhetoric, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

By showing that hijabs are a normal thing to wear and competing in a competition that seeks to shape standards of beauty, Qadoura could change some people’s minds.

Read More: Hijab Goes Mainstream as Advertisers Target Muslim Money

She’s not alone in her trailblazing, either.

Recently, the first hijab-wearing news anchor hit the air in Iowa and models such as Amena Khan are fronting major beauty campaigns while wearing the hijab.

Qadoura, for her part, has bigger advocacy ambitions. Her Twitter page has countless calls to action for countries to provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Global Citizen campaigns on the UN’s Global Goals, which call for greater tolerance around the world. You can take action on this issue here