So this past Sunday was the 2nd World Hijab Day, a day where non-Muslim women are encouraged to don the hijab to “see what it’s like wearing hijab.” This even was started in 2013, and as noble the idea is, I can’t help but have a few reservations about those celebrating it; Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
What is the premise behind this event? So a non-Muslim woman can wear hijab and see what we, hijabis, go through on a daily basis. Now, I know that some girls do get comments and are harassed sometimes. I will not say it doesn’t happen. However, having worn hijab for 18 years now, my incidents have been far and few between. Yes, some people will stare, some will make a comment (I’ve been called terrorist and oppressed), but you will find those incidents in any social interaction in society. If I didn’t wear hijab, I’d be harassed as a woman. If I wasn’t a woman, I’d be harassed for the way I look….and on and on it goes. Because you will NEVER be fully accepted in society, no matter who you are.
So let’s say the woman wearing hijab for a day DOES get harassed. Now she will feel pity at the women who do wear it daily. She will also feel some resentment towards a religion that mandates a woman to succumb to that type of ridicule. No, she will not understand that the struggles we face will be rewarded. It might seem like a sweet idea to believe she will, but because she does not understand Islam, she really won’t see it that way.
That leads me to the second point; the women wearing the hijab for a day do not understand Islam, nor do they have the emotional connection to hijab and what it truly means. They have it on for a day- not a lifetime- so they will not truly respect the idea as someone who knows they have to wear it for years to come. It takes a certain type of person to understand that when you wear hijab, you are preparing yourself for a lifetime of possible hardships. To wear it for one day and then go back to your old self will not give you the full experience.
But here I am talking about IF they DO have an experience. Because honestly, most will not. If you wear for hijab for one day, you most likely will not experience harassment. I go out every day to the gym, grocery store, shopping areas, etc….and I never get harassed. I get looked at yes- but I like to think it’s because of the smile on my face, or something I’m wearing. We can’t always assume someone is looking at us because of our hijab. How self-centered can you be? I travel a lot for work, and the last time I flew, I had two flights each way to my destination, and on each flight, the person I was seated next to was welcoming and asked me lots of questions. There was no fear and no ignorance.
So assume these non-Muslims wear hijab for a day- AND NOTHING HAPPENS. No one looks at them, no one says anything to them….they are treated as a regular person. And again the possibility of this is much higher than the opposite reaction. So now these non-Muslims will wonder “what the heck are hijabis complaining about all the time- they don’t get harassed! No one views them differently. So why all the fuss? This is what you wanted me to experience? Hijabis don’t have it harder than anyone else.”
Also, whatever happened to hijab making women feel empowered? Why do we want people to wear it to feel how oppressed we feel in it? It’s like asking someone to dress in blackface to see how it feels to be black. One, that would never work; there would be such an uproar on how disrespectful it is. Black people know that if a white person donned blackface for a day, their experiences will never measure to the ones they face daily. Suffering for one day with someone will not alleviate the overall suffering of that people. Hijab is not meant to be used as a method to get people to sympathize with you, because just like I mentioned above, they will not be able to fully comprehend the notion.
So let’s assume they wear the hijab, and they somewhat get harassed, and now they sort of understand it. This is the best case scenario. Now, what happens when someone bashes hijab and the idea of it in front of this person? Of course, this is the reason why we want them to wear it- so they can defend us! So they will bring up their experience, and say how for one day they wore it and it was hard and awful and people looked at them funny….so now more people will pity us? COME ON PEOPLE. We do’t want that, do we? When people used to ask me about hijab, I never whined. I never complained, nor did I throw out the “woe is me” card. I replied with strength and courage, and said it empowered me and gave me experiences that shaped me into the person I am. I don’t want people to pity me. You shouldn’t either.
The last point I want to bring up is about Muslim women who support Hijab Day. I honestly do not understand how the SAME women who wear hijab and judge other Muslim women in hijab, are supportive of non-Muslims wearing the hijab. Because they are not wearing it up to “your standards” yet you are applauding them for taking the chance to wear it to see what it’s like. So it doesn’t matter if these non-Muslims in hijab have nail polish on, wear skinny jeans- heck, even have short sleeves on in hijab- because hey, they’re just trying to empathize with us!
I cannot STAND that idea. How about you first learn to respect your other Muslim hijabis, and not judge them, before you applaud someone for trying it out for a day. How about, instead of focusing on a World Hijab Day, you focus on becoming closer with other Muslims that you know first? I love how we as Muslims are so excited to get non-Muslims to learn about us, yet we create such divisions within our selves. So what if your fellow hijabi is not wearing hijab the “right way?” Did you ever stop to think that maybe your constant judgement is making them feel so far from their community that they will no longer listen to you? I see it all the time- there is even a page on Facebook that was leaked recently where Muslim women take pictures of hijabis in public and then bash them with comments. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Then these same women want to encourage World Hijab Day? PLEASE.
You want people to learn about hijab, write something. Speak at a conference or woman’s event. Get involved at your university or in your community. Talk to people you meet in public. Be approachable. I don’t know how many times I’ve been approached by someone wanting to ask me about hijab but they are too scared because the last hijabi they asked was mean-spirited and disrespectful. Having someone wear the hijab may get them to see how hot it is maybe underneath it on a summer day. Or see how warm it keeps you in the midst of winter. But it will not give them the full idea of hijab- not even a small idea. To them it is a costume they will wear for a day- “oh look, I’m Muslim!”- and then discard the next day and return to their life of detachment.