Today is known colloquially as Superbowl Sunday for most Americans who enjoy mediocre halftime shows, football games with dramatic endings, and chicken wings, but the Muslim community is focused on something arguably more important. This year, on February 1, the Muslim community is pushing non-Hijabi Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, to wear Hijab for a day as an act to promote acceptance, religious tolerance, and education. It is the third annual “World Hijab Day.”
For those of you less acquainted with Muslim culture and religion (which I was until speaking with some friends from the Muslim Student Association or MSA), hijab refers to the veil or headscarf that Muslim women wear as a symbol of modesty and liberation. Modern American society criticizes the hijab and the niqab (face veil) as oppressive to women, forcing them to cover up their beauty for the sake of men. But today, Muslim women are trying to spread the message that wearing the hijab is liberating for them.
A friend from the MSA who wears the niqab told me, “Wearing the niqab does not make me any less of a human, does not make me “less intellectual” and does not make me a terrorist. Muslim women get their full education and become educators; they become successful mothers, daughters, doctors, teachers, engineers, etc. Their hijab/niqab does not stop them; in fact, it’s part of our religion to be educated and become educators and to become successful women.”
Another friend told me that Islam is keen on promoting rights for women. In order to promote these rights, though, women need to be viewed for who they are, so by donning the hijab or niqab, they actually empower themselves to be a significant part of society without the focus being on their sexual attraction.
Although she, herself, does not physically wear the hijab or niqab at this point, she spoke about the hijab also being about a woman’s behavior. She said, “One of our missions in life as Muslims is spreading the message of Islam. In the pre-islamic era, women had barely any rights. When Islam was revealed, it gave women incredible rights and a very high status. Women played an amazing role in Prophet Muhammad’s life (peace be upon him) as well. After Islam, women gained rights in marriage, divorce, inheritance, and freedom to make decisions in their lives. Since the woman is very precious, God protected her in His verses in the Quran. One aspect is modesty. God is [the] all-knowing, so He knew how society would view a woman today. That’s why it is an obligation for women in Islam to wear the veil/hijab. It’s not only covering her hair, but dressing and acting modestly as well. Both the niqab and hijab are the perfect example of how women’s personalities should be appreciated as opposed to their looks and attractiveness.”
While the football game with half-dressed cheerleaders and risque beer commercials goes on today, women all over the world are invited to wear the hijab and share their story on the World Hijab Day Facebook page.
The message is one of tolerance as well as education. People are quick to judge Muslim women and brand them as “terrorists,” find the veil disconcerting, or call them oppressed because they are “forced” to cover up. World Hijab Day invites women to “do before they judge.”
“Islam is welcoming to all religions,” my friend told me. “In fact, one cannot be Muslim without believing in these religions and past Prophets. World Hijab Day sends the message that you’re welcome to try hijab, you’re welcome to ask all you want, and most importantly, we as Muslims care about YOUR eventual benefit from it.”
If you have any questions or comments about the hijab, World Hijab Day, or religious tolerance, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.
And for more information on this event and its roots, check out their website at www.worldhijabday.com.