Muslim women in the British capital gathered on a wintry Friday evening to commemorate World Hijab Day, which celebrates the head covering and the women who wear it.
Marking the annual event for the first time in London, the women came together to discuss the issues faced by those who wear the hijab and how the rise in Islamophobia in the UK has inspired them to take pride in wearing the headscarf and see it as central to their identity.
Saima, a charity worker at the Human Relief Foundation and volunteer at the World Hijab Day event, spoke of the importance of understanding what the hijab means to Muslim women who wear it and how a day such as this is essential in overcoming discrimination and ignorance.
“I think it is really important to have a day where the hijab is recognized, especially in the current climate where Islamophobia is on the rise and there is a lot of ignorance surrounding the hijab and why Muslim women wear it,” she said.
Speaking of peoples’ views regarding the hijab, Saima said “there are two ends of the spectrum; on one end, there are those who see it as a piece of cloth which means nothing and which is why it is so easy for them to say ‘Why don’t you remove it?’ or ‘Why don’t you take it off?’”
“And on the other end, it is not seen for its materialistic aspect; rather, it transcends materialism and holds a deeper meaning to the individual, and rather than being an article of clothing, the hijab plays a key role in the individual’s identity.”
Saima, who has been wearing the hijab for two years, spoke of her reservations when she first began donning the headscarf and the worry that her non-Muslim friends would treat her differently. Those fears were unfounded, however, as she spoke of her friends’ acceptance of her decision to wear the hijab.
Besides issues faced by Muslim women such as in the workplace and other public areas of life, one pressing concern was the high level of ignorance within the Muslim community regarding the hijab and the difficulty for Muslim women who want to wear it to communicate with those closest to them.
World Hijab Day was founded in 2013 by Nazma Khan, a Muslim woman from Bangladesh living in New York City, and is commemorated every year in over 150 countries across the globe. The initiative encourages all women, regardless of faith or background, to wear the hijab and experience a day in the life of a Muslim woman.
“Growing up in the Bronx, in New York City, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab,” Khan said.
“In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’. When I entered university after 9/11, I was called ‘Osama bin Laden’ or ‘terrorist’. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience the hijab themselves,” Khan said in a statement.
The event is held on Feb. 1 every year and aims to end negative stereotypes surrounding Muslim women who wear the hijab. Each year focuses on a theme, with 2019 looking at “Breaking Stereotypes; Shattering Boundaries”.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Copyright Andolu Ajansi