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World Hijab Day celebrates culture, encourages questions

Women share their experiences with the hijab and what they view as the significance of World Hijab Day.



hijab

Sophomore Sarah Kawamleh Buy Photos

World Hijab Day is celebrated Feb. 1. The Muslim Student Association at IU is putting on an event from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Teter Formal Lounge. 

The purpose of World Hijab Day is to encourage people to ask questions about and experience the hijab. At the event, people will be encouraged to try on a hijab, ask questions and listen to women talk about their experiences with the hijab. 

Sarah Kawamleh (sophomore)

Sophomore Sarah Kawamleh Buy Photos


Indiana Daily Student: What has been your experience wearing the hijab?

Kawamleh: I’ve worn the hijab for a very long time. I’ve worn it since like before the beginning of 7th grade. I can’t imagine my life without it. So my experience with the hijab on is basically my life experience. In general, though, I just view it as a part of who I am.

IDS: What do you think is the significance of World Hijab Day?

Kawamleh: The importance of World Hijab Day is to share the hijabi experience. A lot of people don’t understand what we go through on a day-to-day basis and like who we are really. You just see what’s on our heads, and no one really cares to ask. This is a time to not only come and ask questions about the hijab that you might think are offensive but are really just questions and also to try on the hijab.

IDS: What will the event look like?

Kawamleh: First of all, when everybody walks in, there’s going to be a booth there where we’ll hopefully have a bunch of hijabs there that people can try on and some mirrors. After that, they can kind of keep them on. We’re going to have food there so they can eat. 

After that, we’ll have like the official discussion of the day, and that’s where some girls are going to share their experiences with the hijab and some might share their experiences without the hijab and just as Muslims in general. And then we’ll have like a Q&A session as well following that. We really encourage people to ask questions because this is the time to do it. 

It’s an open space. After that, we have this little campaign going on with like a Muslim hijab fashion website. They sell hijabs and stuff like that, and they’re pretty well-known in Indianapolis. They’re doing a campaign where everybody carries a piece of paper and it says ‘my hijab this,’ like what it represents to you. 

We’re kind of going along with that and joining in the campaign, so at the end, we’ll ask people if they want to wear the hijab and write on the piece of paper and take pictures and stuff like that.

IDS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope people get from this day?

Kawamleh: Just ask questions and be there to listen to people. I think the main thing is to just not be intimidated and remember if you see a hijabi walking around, just know that she has so much more to her experience than the hijab, but also that it’s literally a part of who she is. So it’s carried around wherever she goes.


Professor Asma Afsaruddin, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Department of Religious Studies 

Professor Asma Afsaruddin Ty Vinson Buy Photos


IDS: What do you think is the significance of World Hijab Day?

Afsaruddin: World Hijab Day is important to draw attention to women’s reasons, their own reasons, for adopting this particular garb and what it means to them, rather than having other people interpret it for them. I think it gives women agency when they’re allowed to speak for themselves.

IDS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope people get from this day?

Afsaruddin: I teach a course on Islamic feminism and we talk about the hijab actually quite a bit, and one of the things I want the students to take away from that discussion is that there are many different reasons why women do wear the hijab. 

It would really depend on individual women. People shouldn’t generalize and make immediate assumptions based on what a woman wears. I mean that shouldn’t be acceptable, anyway, judging a woman based on what she’s wearing. I’m hoping this will allow people to engage with this topic more closely and to get a more diverse perspective on the meanings of the hijab.


Manha Iftikhar (freshman)

Freshman Manha Iftikhar Buy Photos


IDS: What do you think the significance of World Hijab Day is?

Iftikhar: It’s a great way to answer a lot of questions that people have, because a lot of people want to ask questions about it but don’t feel comfortable asking. So this is a place where all questions are welcome, any little thing that you want to ask, and you get to try on hijabs, which is something a lot of people want to do. 

I feel like there’s just a lot of ambiguity around the hijab. A lot of people don’t know about it, and they want to know about it. I feel like this is a really good source for people to find out the facts and firsthand experiences of people who do wear the hijab.

IDS: What has your experience been like wearing the hijab?

Iftikhar: It’s definitely been interesting because I was the first and only girl who wore the hijab in my high school. So it was like a culture shock for everyone around me because they had never talked to or hung out with someone who wears the hijab. 

So a lot of people would ask me questions, and I love questions. I always tell people to literally ask me anything at any time, but a lot of people were just scared to ask me questions. It’s better for you to ask and know than for you to just think up something else in your head.

IDS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope people get from this day?

Iftikhar: First and foremost, like 110 percent, it’s my choice. That’s a really big thing, like my parents never said a word to me about it. My parents were never like, ‘oh, when are you going to wear it.’ They told me about what it is, and they were like ‘if at some point in your life you want to wear it, that’s great, but it’s your choice.’ I think that’s the one biggest takeaway.


Zahraa Ouyuon (freshman)

Freshman Zahraa Ouyuon Emma Flohr Buy Photos


IDS: What has been your experience wearing the hijab?

Ouyuon: I grew up in Chicago, so it’s been pretty positive for the most part. If I did face any racism or hatred, it was my school. Although I did spend most of my time in Chicago, my school was in Indiana. My school was majority white, so they hadn’t really experienced the Muslim culture and everything. So I was one of maybe 15 that actually went through the system. Overall, it was positive though.

IDS: What do you think the significance of World Hijab Day is?

Ouyuon: I think it’s more for other people than for us. I think it’s more of us just trying to inform people, show people it’s a peaceful thing and not what everyone thinks and just trying to break stereotypes.

IDS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope people get from this day?

Ouyuon: It’s a choice, and I chose to distinguish myself from everyone and to accept my religion proudly.


Hanan Mohamed (sophomore)

Sophomore Hanan Mohamed Kara Williams Buy Photos


IDS: What has been your experience wearing the hijab?

Mohamed: I started wearing it the summer before 7th grade. For me, it wasn’t that I was forced to wear it, but like my mom and I agreed we would start wearing it before I started middle school. At that point, I didn’t really know what it meant or it didn’t have a specific meaning to me. Once I started wearing it, it became like a part of my identity.

IDS: What do you think the significance of World Hijab Day is?

Mohamed: I think it’s a good way for people to educate themselves about what the hijab is and what it means in Islam. A lot of people have a preconceived notion of what it is and how it’s oppressive or that kind of stuff, but it really isn’t.

IDS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope people get from this day?

Mohamed: I guess just that it means a lot of different things to different people. For some, it’s not really a religious thing as much as a cultural thing. If anything, women feel more empowered when they wear the hijab. It’s kind of like a sense of like being proud of who you are and being open to showing that to others.


Mariama Bah (junior)

Junior Mariama Bah Victor Gan Buy Photos


IDS: What has been your experience wearing the hijab?

Bah: I started wearing a hijab the summer transitioning into my senior year of high school. I’ve always wanted to wear it, but I wasn’t ready, I felt, at the time. All of my friends knew me since elementary school without a hijab and then all of the sudden it was like a drastic change. So when I wore it, there were some changes. 

I lost a few friends here and there, but overall in my high school most of the people didn’t change their opinion of me. I was still the same person, just with a scarf now.

IDS: What do you think the significance of World Hijab Day is?

Bah: It’s basically to have a sense of representation of who Muslim women are. We’re different all over the world. We have different goals. It’s a way to not homogenize us. We’re diverse. 

And it’s really great to see other people appreciate the hijab and try it on just for fun. I just think it’s basically to spread the word and showcase Muslim women and how diverse we are.

IDS: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope people get from this day?

Bah: It’s your relationship with the religion and God. It’s your own journey. You can take your time finding yourself and discovering yourself. You can experience it through having different styles, people using it for fashion even. Remember why the person put it on and the intentions behind it.

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