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1st Danish veiled politician attends council meet

Abdul Hamid becomes first Danish local council official in hijab

A Danish politician of Palestinian origin on Wednesday became the first woman to attend a local council meeting wearing a hijab, the Muslim veil.

Asmaa Abdul Hamid, 27, took part in a meeting in the city of Odense as a substitute for a member of the Unity List, a left-wing grouping.

Abdul Hamid has attracted attention because of the fact that she chooses to wear the hijab and refuses to shake hands with men. She led the voting list for her party at the 2005 local elections.

"I would like to be judge on what I have in my head, not on it, for the politics that I defend, my opinions and not what I wear or how I greet (people)," she told the large media pack that had turned out for the occasion.

Abdul Hamid is also on her party's parliamentary list and is already down as a stand-in for their existing deputy, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen.

The possibility that she might appear on his behalf in the parliament building has, since the November 2007 election, created a political stir, particularly among the far-right.

Peter Seeberg, an academic at the University of Odense, said her participation in the council meeting was a landmark event in Danish politics.

"She will influence the debate (of recent years) on Islamic veils, because we have now an example of a veiled Muslim woman taking part in an elected assembly, showing that things are evolving in Danish society," he told the online edition of the regional daily Fyens Stifstidende.

Earlier this week, Dalia Mogahed, an Egyptian-born American who heads the Gallup American Center for Muslim Studies, became the first Muslim veiled woman to be appointed to a position in the White House. Mogahed has been appointed as an interfaith advisory in the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

I would like to be judged on what I have in my head, not on it, for the politics that I defend, my opinions and not what I wear or how I greet (people)

Asmaa Abdul Hamid