'I didn’t know prejudice until I became a Muslim,' says Islam devotee who is shocked by open hostility.

With black material covering her hair and body and gloves concealing her hands, the lone figure already paints a striking picture.

But the sliver of flesh reveals her most striking feature - her eyes.

Hazel with a tinge of metal grey, they are simply stunning.

Amina Hall is a devoted member of the Islam faith and has been a Muslim for the past three years, living her life based on principles of peace and modesty as laid out in the Koran.


She wears the hijab, a compulsory piece of clothing that covers Muslim women's heads. She also wears the niqab - an optional garment which covers the face except for her eyes.

She also has a burqa, which she is not wearing today. Contrary to what many people think, the burqa, which covers the eyes as well, is also optional.

The male photographer on today's job is only allowed here because someone else, one of Amina's daughters, is home.

As he leaves, just as I arrive, he thanks her for her time and offers a handshake - which she recoils from, before they both erupt in laughter.

"Oh sorry," Jason says, holding his hands up in surrender. "I forgot."

Amina laughs again and welcomes me into her home.

The second the door shuts, she pulls off her hijab and niqab in a sweeping, sort of "ta-da" movement which immediately reveals her secret.

She is not a foreigner. She is a blonde, beautiful, European Kiwi.


"We grew up in Cambridge, with normal working class parents. I'm the eldest of three. I have a younger brother and sister.

"I've never been racist and I've never encountered it either, so I found it really humbling coming from something I've never thought about and not growing up racist or in a racist family.

"Although some won't talk to me now. You know who your friends are, who your good family is," she says with a smile.

"I didn't know prejudice until I became a Muslim."

Amina is not her birth name, it is one she came up with when she decided to completely turn her life around. In Arabic, Amina means truthful, trustworthy and honest.

Before converting to Islam, she worked as a receptionist and as a personal assistant to a general manager here, before moving to the Gold Coast.

There she worked in housekeeping for resorts and motels and found a love for her new faith.

Amina Hall is a devoted member of the Islam faith and has been a Muslim for the past three years. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Amina Hall is a devoted member of the Islam faith and has been a Muslim for the past three years. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"They have what's called the Saudi season, when people from Saudi Arabia come over to Australia. I saw many covered sisters and I just loved the look of them.

"Just cleaning their rooms, learning a little bit, talking to them and noticing them more ... I noticed how good their manners were. Quiet and beautiful manners. I noticed that they weren't at the pubs or causing problems."

Later, Amina visited a local mosque, where she heard the Azan - the call to prayer - for the first time.

"It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Then I watched them pray. It can only come from Allah. Islam gets into your heart. It was like that, in that minute, I knew."

She continued working in Australia and was even allowed to wear a hijab to her office job on the Gold Coast - something which initially caused some dramas, she admits.

This year she decided to head back to New Zealand to live and work. She wanted to be closer to her family, who live in Auckland.

But she was shocked when she encountered cold reaction and blatant attacks while out in public.

"People look at me in disgust or they give me a curious look. The girls are the ones that attack me."

About six weeks ago, a group of teenage girls approached her while she waited at a bus stop.

"They were saying: 'Give me your phone, give me your bag'. They kept saying: 'Give me your effin' phone'!

"Quite often I'll be walking even at the supermarket and they go: 'Kaboom! Get back to your effin' country! Eff off out of our way'! If I'm walking up the road, people drive past and yell out: 'White power'!' - like they're supremacist, or something. And I'm thinking: 'Oh ya idiot, I am white'."

Amina says being the subject of verbal attacks had opened her eyes and she encouraged Kiwis to be more open-minded.

"It's not even just about Muslims, it's about how people are discriminated against because they might be a different religion, colour or culture.

"I grew up as a typical Kiwi and in the majority. It was never an issue I had to address or think about, ever."

She says irrespective of race, culture and religion "we're all part of the human race".

She is looking forward to moving back to Australia to work as a housekeeper in Muslim homes.

Now she says her family and close friends like her better. She is kinder and more at peace with herself, and fitting into society no longer matters.

"No matter what happens, I don't care. This is my faith and this is who I am."

A matter of belief.

•In the last NZ Census, 46,194 people identified as Muslim.

•It is the third largest religious group here, behind Christians and Hindus.

Burqa: Is a full-length garment worn by Muslim women. It covers the body from head to toe, including the eyes. It is optional to wear.

Niqab: A cloth which covers the face but not the eyes. Optional.

Hijab: Covers the head and chest. Is compulsory to wear.