CAIRO – Non-Muslim students at New York’s Union College have participated in the second annual hijab for a day, sharing the experience of Muslim women donning the Islamic headscarf.
“I had a few people that I am friends with ask me about the hijab,” Julie Fishman ’16, who participated in Hijabi for a Day, told Concordiensis, the students’ newspaper of Union College, reported on Thursday, February 27.
“But what really struck me was that I felt like, as I was walking around campus, seeing other girls who were wearing the hijab provided almost an immediate connection.
“Whether I had known or seen them before, there was a nod or a smile exchanged, and it was an interesting bond to feel,” the young girl added.
Fishman is one of scores of students who participated in the event held last week in Union College.
The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Youth Core and Multifaith Forum, was held to share Muslim women their feelings while donning hijab.
Not only non-Muslim students participated in the event.
Young Nuzhat Chowdhury, 16, who is now officially trained by the Interfaith Leadership Institute, found the event an opportunity to don hijab for a first time.
Though Chowdhury is a Muslim, she found the event an opportunity to make her closer to taking the decision of donning the Islamic headscarf.
“I am a Muslim woman, and although I do not wear the hijab at this point in my life, I was very excited about the event because it is great to see women of all faiths and colors coming together to represent Muslim women in such a positive way,” she said.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
The Union College’s event copied the idea of World Hijab Day marked each year on February 1.
During the day, hundreds of thousands of Muslim and non-Muslim women don a traditional Islamic head scarf to spread awareness of hijab as a Muslim women right and educate the masses about the origins and reasons for the Islamic headwear.
Though marked for the second year, the event witnessed some negative reactions from students who had misconceptions about the Islamic headscarf.
“I feel that there are some who may maintain a negative stigma towards the wearing of a hijab and it is mainly because they don’t understand,” Fishman remarked.
“Something like Hijabi For a Day makes it seem like less of a taboo subject on campus and that is a good thing.
“Bringing events like this to the attention of the campus more is so necessary, especially looking at other faiths and cultures beyond Islam.”
Chowdhury added that similar events at the college campus would help in dispelling misconceptions about Islam and other faiths as well.
“I would like to see more events like this at Union. Fortunately, this is in my comfort zone, but I would like to get the opportunity to do something different like maybe wearing a bindi (Hinduism) or a yarmulke (Judaism), because these outward expressions of faith are important to be aware of and understand,” she said.
While the Muslim population at Union is not predominant, it is important to foster a greater understanding of their practices and customs. Chowdhury added.
“The most important message we can send is to encourage religious competence. It is easier to bridge gaps between groups of people when you can spend some time walking in their shoes, and in the process becoming more culturally and religiously literate,” she said.
“Wearing the hijab is such an outward expression of faith and I admire the women who choose to wear it.
“They are strong and proud of their faith, a dedication which I one day aspire to have.”
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