World Hijab Day took place on Feb. 1st and is a day for women of all religions and cultures to try wearing a hijab, more commonly known as the veil. World Hijab Day promoted their cause on the official Facebook page, which received 509k likes since it was first established three years ago. World Hijab Day also trended for the first time this year on Twitter, with the tag #worldhijabday. A hijab looks similar to a head scarf, and is worn by some Muslim women because of their belief that beauty is attained through modesty.
Celebrating World Hijab Day at UT would be a great way to show support of diverse cultures while putting ourselves in their shoes. To some non-muslims and muslims alike, the hijab is considered a form of women’s oppression, reported Farhad Kazemi in Gender, Islam, and Politics. The hijab is a symbol of modesty, much like how a nun would wear a hood, so there is no reason to criticize Muslim women.
World Hijab Day is a good opportunity for women of all cultures to choose to dress modestly. This shows support for the women who choose to wear the hijab, as well as for their beliefs. Choosing to wear the hijab would also shed light on the misconception that the hijab is a form of women’s oppression
I feel as though men and women should be able to practice their faith as strictly or as liberally as they please, and that all people should respect an individual’s religious beliefs. In some Middle Eastern countries, sexual harassment is quite frequent for women who refuse to wear hijab or act immodestly. On the other hand, in the United States, women who choose to wear a hijab have frequently been discriminated against. “No one should be discriminated [against] for following their faith,” said Nazma Khan, the woman who founded World Hijab Day in January of 2013.
Mehak Amer, a senior Psychology major at the University of Tampa, is originally from Pakistan where the hijab is not commonly worn. Amer discussed how the hijab is more of a “cultural thing than a religious thing,” and is seen more common in Middle Eastern countries. Pakistanis do not consider themselves Middle Eastern, unlike the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. Amer stated that whether or not a woman wears a hijab is more of a personal preference in Pakistan, and that it is very rare.
“I think it’s more of a modesty thing, because in the Qur’an, which is our holy book, it doesn’t say a woman needs to cover her head,” said Amer. “It just says she needs to be dressed modestly…to me technically, God hasn’t asked us to cover our heads so I don’t really see why we need to, but a lot of women do it to be modest. It’s not something I could ever do, I like my hair way too much.” Amer discussed how some Middle Eastern women are forced to wear a hijab because of cultural norm. However, it is wrong to assume that all of these women wear the hijab because they are required to because most have a choice. It is not exactly fair for non-Muslim people to point the finger at Muslims and call the traditional dress for women oppressive.
“Not every woman is forced to wear it. A lot of women wear it because it’s their choice,” said Amer, “and I know people who actually wear it, girls my age, and their mothers don’t, their sisters don’t, or even their grandmothers don’t. So it’s just everybody’s personal preference…not every woman who wears the hijab is oppressed.” Without knowing that wearing a hijab is related to the individual cultures located in the Middle East, as opposed to the practice of Islam as a whole, I can definitely see how requiring women to cover their heads would look oppressive. Raising awareness and educating people about other cultures is the only way discrimination can be stopped.
Khan’s idea to create World Hijab Day is fundamental in order to allow people to be more tolerant because it is a day devoted to gaining knowledge and understanding about another culture’s beliefs and morals. We should promote and celebrate World Hijab Day at UT in order to get one step closer to being an environment that is not only tolerant, but supportive of diverse cultures. But is it disrespectful to followers of Islam if non-Muslim women at UT and around the world wear a hijab for a day?
“I don’t think they should be, I don’t see any reason why they should be. I think it’s actually really nice,” said Amer. “It’s nice that there are other people out there who do support it and do stand up for these girls and women who wear the hijab.” It’s important to stand up and show our support for these women because unfortunately, taunting and harassment does happen.
Liz Rockett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org