BOSTON – Non-Muslim students at Boston University have volunteered to spend a day wearing headscarves as part of the university’s March’s Islam Awareness Month in a trial to correct misconceptions about Islam and hijab.
“I saw the poster at the GSU Link and thought this was a really interesting thing to do,” Dian Qu, a College of Arts and Sciences student, told BU Today.
“I asked them to show me how to put it on, but I forgot, so I did it my own way,” Qu, who is from China, added.
Qu was not alone in this experience.
She is among 40 non-Muslim women at BU who volunteered to spend a day wearing headscarves as part of the BU Hijab Day Challenge.
Her boyfriend insisted she remove the scarf while they walked together. She refused.
“I just turned around and walked on my own,” she said.
The hijab day is one of several events sponsored by the Islamic Society of BU as part of March’s Islam Awareness Month.
Signing up at their dorms or at the George Sherman Union Link, the students were given links to instructional videos and pink buttons that read “BU Hijab Day Challenge—Ask Me About My Hijab.”
Sonia Perez Arias, another student, said her friend giggled when he saw her and total strangers greeted her on Commonwealth Avenue with the word “Salaam.”
“I like to do things that challenge me,” Arias said.
“Muslim people were greeting me in Arabic,” said Perez Arias, who describes herself as an atheist.
“I didn’t know how to respond.”
Anya Gonzales gained what she calls “a new-found respect” for Islam, while Richa Kaul, an initial sense of fear gave way to understanding and confidence.
“I have a new-found respect for Muslim women,” Gonzales said.
Kaul, a Hindu, joined the challenge out of curiosity and to show “solidarity with the Islamic culture.”
“The only time I felt scared or anxious was right before I opened the door to my classroom, a School of Management class, and some people turned their heads,. I could see that people see the hijab first and then you.”
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Supporting the hijab day, non-Muslims were praised as being opened to correct misconceptions about Islam and hijab.
“I applaud Boston University students who willingly took up the challenge of the Hijab Day and decided to experience the subjective rewards that may come with their personal choice or the hazard of becoming the object of hostile public gaze,” said Shahla Haeri, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of anthropology, who has written extensively on religion, law, and gender dynamics in the Muslim world.
The hijab day was not the only event organized during the university’s Islam Awareness Month.
Throughout March, the Islamic Society has sponsored a series of events, including Petals from the Prophet and the sharing of flowers on Marsh Plaza, an evening of prayer on the plaza.
A #WhatisIslam? open discussion was also held at the Howard Thurman Center.The monthlong observation concludes Sunday with a free open invitation spring dinner at the GSU Metcalf Ballroom.
“The turnout has been great,” said Sakina Hassanali, president of the Islamic Society, recalling that at the Petals for the Prophet event,
“Even though we were the ones giving out the flowers, one guy actually came up to give us flowers.
“It really warmed our hearts. It just goes to show you the kind of community we have at BU.”
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
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