World Hijab Day was internationally celebrated on Sunday, Feb. 1, but was recognized at the University on Thursday, Feb. 26, by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Lambda Theta Alpha (LTA) in an event that invited students, faculty, and administrators to wear the hijab.
The hijab is an obligatory head covering that is a signature of Muslim women around the world. In an effort to spread campus involvement and knowledge of the World Hijab Day celebration, members of MSA and LTA tabled in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC) throughout the day.
At the table was a collection of patterned hijabs and beside the table was a full length mirror. Under a banner that read “Before you judge cover up for a day” sat members of MSA and LTA. The University community was free to choose a hijab from the table and learn how to wear it. After, they could check their appearance in the mirror and say how they felt about it. The MSA also handed out pamphlets with an in-depth description of the hijab.
Dr. Rekha Datta, a professor of political science, said she is happy to see students observe World Hijab Day at the University. “Through the event we learn about, and thereby develop, respect for religious and cultural diversity. The more we learn about the meaning and beauty of diverse religions and cultural practices, the more we learn to respect them, and create a society in which ignorance does not lead to discrimination, intolerance, and even violence.”
“I commend the MSA and LTA for engaging the campus community in such a beautiful ceremony in observance of the World Hijab Day,” continued Datta.
The event spread awareness but also took the form of a social experiment. Students, faculty, and administrators who had never even touched a hijab before were given the opportunity to wear it. Many of the participants ignored the stares from onlookers observing from afar, and attempted to define how it made them feel.
“I feel secure,” said Dyamond Rodriguez, a fine arts student, as she wore a hijab in the mirror. “The only thing that I could not do with this on is wear neck jewelry. Otherwise, I feel like I can do anything. The hijab is definitely not oppressive,” said Rodriguez.
Reem Alsalman, President of the Muslim Students Association, said, “This event has been something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. Many times I get asked if I’m forced to wear the hijab, or if I shower in it and I’m humored and saddened at the same time with these questions,” the senior biology student said.
“I wanted to raise awareness and dispel any rumors and misconceptions. Hijab is beautiful-it’s liberating, not oppressive, and no, we don’t shower in it,” said Alsalman.
The hijab is not the most important part of being a Muslim women but it is the most visual. It is a personal decision made by the woman who wears it. In Islam the hijab is obligatory to wear for a Muslim woman who has reached puberty. It is to be worn around men who are not relatives.
However, women in Islam do not have to cover their hair in front of their family, or other females.
Crystal Diaz, Academic Chair of Lambda Theta Alpha, said, “I have learned that Muslim women are not forced to wear a hijab. It is supposed to be a personal decision between a woman and God, no one should judge them for it. I have also learned that they take so much pride in it.”
Diaz said her experience wearing a hijab was odd at first. “I walked around the student center a bit and I felt like people were looking at me weird. Then after a while I didn’t even notice I was wearing it anymore and I actually liked it,” said Diaz.
Diaz said she can now relate relate more to Muslim women and defend why they wear hijabs.
Saliba Sarsar Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives, and Professor of Political Science, said “Monmouth University promotes global and cultural literacy through its curriculum and programming. Events that create better awareness, greater understanding, and respect for others as well as celebrate other cultures and traditions enrich the campus atmosphere and contribute to building community.”
According to WorldHijabDay.com, World Hijab Day was founded by Nazma Khan a New York resident. The first World Hijab Day was on February 1, 2013. Khan sought to create a day that would foster tolerance and end discrimination by inviting non-muslims to wear the hijab for a day. The vision sprouted after facing much discrimination for her religion, and hijab post 9/11. World Hijab Day has spread to over 140 countries. It is organized through social media. On instagram it carries its own hashtag. Mainstream news organizations such as Huffington Post, BBC, and Al-Jazeera have covered this global movement since its birth.
PHOTO TAKEN from weheartit.com