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U. organization discusses significance of World Hijab Day, purpose of hijab

World Hijab Day is a day to discuss the purpose of the hijab and to dispel common misconceptions that have been placed about wearing one.  – Photo by Ifrah Akhter / Unsplash

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association for Women (AMSAW) at Rutgers recently discussed the significance of World Hijab Day, a movement first created in 2013 by activist Nazma Khan to encourage religious tolerance and recognize Muslim women around the world who choose to wear the hijab.

Aishah Muhammad, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said World Hijab Day is a day to discuss the existence and purpose of a hijab as well as to dispel common misconceptions about what it means to wear one.

While World Hijab Day only recently gained popularity, she said recent Islamaphobic legislation and policies in countries such as France and India demonstrate the importance of the day and of discussing the hijab’s misconceptions.

“You can see that with France ... no hijabs, no burkini, nothing related to that, but at the same time, when they have their fashion shows and runways, you can see they're praised for wearing a hijab or a headscarf,” Muhammad said. “In other countries, like in India, hijabi students are prevented from coming to the university and are protesting.”

She said the purpose of the hijab is to allow women to maintain modesty and dignity as well as receive respect from men. Men also have a role in this practice, which includes lowering their gaze around women in order to view them only in a respectful way, she said.

She said the main misconception people have about hijabs is their purpose, with many thinking that individuals who wear hijabs are oppressed or forced to wear them by family members. Muhammad said that this idea is not accurate in the Quran — the central religious text of Islam.

"There’s actually a quote in the Holy Quran, that says there's no compulsion in religion,” she said. “You can look for it, there's no punishment even if you don't wear the hijab. So it's your choice."

Other misconceptions about hijabs include when they should be worn. Hijabis — women who wear hijabs — can remove their hijabs at home and around family members. They can also remove them at events where people can be in areas divided by their gender as well, she said.

AMSAW also used social media as a platform to discuss the importance of the hijab and how it can be compared to many other religions that use head coverings as a religious practice. They provided examples of nuns practicing Christianity and individuals practicing Hinduism as comparable, she said.

AMSAW also held a discussion during the World Hijab Day event where they provided interested individuals the opportunity to try on the hijab in order to encourage them to reach out and learn more about the practice, Muhammad said.

The organization has also previously held events such as “Religion and Racism,” where leaders from religions including Judaism, Sikhism and Christianity hosted discussions about racism in America. Other events related to the stories of Black Muslim women in America, Muhammad said.

She also said that for individuals who want to learn more about the hijab, she recommends going to mosques or speaking to hijabis, including members of the organization.

“If you want you can go to a mosque and ask for yourself what the hijab is about ... or you can just talk to a hijabi," she said.


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