Why You Should Be Wearing a Hijab, According to Muslim Students at UVA

February 04, 2016

Story by Allyson Cartwright
Photos courtesy of World Hijab Day at UVA

Muslim students at the University of Virginia are encouraging their fellow non-Muslim students to show their solidarity against Islamophobia by donning headscarves, or Hijabs, for World Hijab Day. World Hijab Day at U.Va. begins on Feb. 1st and students will continue to wear them through Feb. 5th, when a dialogue will be held at 4:00 PM in the Newcomb Hall Commonwealth Room to openly discuss the Hijab and Islam. It is stressed that this dialogue will represent people of diverse backgrounds and opinions on Islam. Throughout the week, hosts for the event will be operating photobooths at Alderman Library and Newcomb Dining Hall to engage with supporters.

Attiya Latif, a second-year College student and the main organizer of the event expressed that the purpose of this event is for the community to show a united front against Islamophobia and also to enlighten others to the reality of intolerance that Muslims in America face. Latif said of the event, “It is a day in which, fully aware of the connotation of wearing the Hijab, all are invited to engage in total immersion into the experience of some Muslim women.”

The World Hijab Day at U.Va. blog offers instructions on how to wear the Hijab and how they suggest men can participate as well. Katelyn Fadely, a fourth-year College student and non-Muslim, plans on participating in the event and said “I think that it’s important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes—or Hijab—before judging their life choices.”

For some non-Muslims, there is apprehension about wearing the Hijab considering the potential implications as cultural appropriation. Fadely said that while she plans on participating in the event and is eager to support her Muslim peers, she is worried about how it will be received by others. Fadely said, “I will admit that I’m a little nervous about the reactions of any community members because I don’t want to offend anyone,” she continued, “Although, I’m confident that the UVA community will be positively receptive, but I hope that our surrounding community will as well.”

Organizers for the event assure non-Muslims that the Muslim community at UVA does not identify this event as cultural appropriation. Latif said, “It would be culturally appropriating if, for example, a person chose to wear the hijab without reason and without acknowledging religious aspects and This event is being held with the purpose to educate those who participate about the religious and cultural significance of the hijab, thus it encourages students to wear it in a thoughtful manner.

Lyeba Shahid, a fourth-year College student and Muslim, supports World Hijab Day and is not offended by the initiative. Shahid said, “Non-Muslim students wearing a hijab is a great idea in my opinion. It allows students to experience what it is like to be in the shoes of someone who does wear a Hijab and how that person's appearance may influence their everyday life including how they are treated by other people.”

Some Muslim students are skeptical of the impact that World Hijab Day will have on the community. An anonymous Master of Public Health student and hijabi said, “It is possible that the women participating in the event will be more understanding of other women who wear hijab, but chances are they are already open minded individuals if they are participating in such an exercise in the first place,” she continued, “But for people who are deeply bigoted, initiatives of this nature may prove irrelevant to shaping their opinion of Muslims and Islam.” This student admits, though, that the event has positive aspects, she said, “I do believe it may be a good first step to creating a platform for open dialogue about these issues.”

Latif insists that people do not lose sight of what World Hijab Day is all about, which is support of Muslims and condemnation of Islamophobia. Latif said of the event, “This day is simply a moment where we as a human race—as a collective—are coming together to demonstrate not only that we care enough about one another to be willing to physically step into each others' shoes, but that we also refuse to let hatred and intolerance slip by under the radar any longer, and will continue to demonstrate solidarity in any way we can.”

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