PDP: Hijab Week

Section: Exploring Diverse Ideas and People in a Global Society

I had a lot of emotions going through my head before I began this project…activity… experience? I don’t want to call it an ‘activity,’ because that insinuates that it is something that could be done by anyone at any time for fun. While this experience was very rewarding, it is not something that I would label ‘fun.’ To do so would take away from the message Honors was trying to teach us with Hijab Week.

Before I get into messages and whatnot, I have to tell you exactly what Hijab Week is. I participated in Hijab Week from Sunday, November 6th until Sunday, until November 13th. During this week, myself and roughly 20 other girls wore a hijab to try and learn a little bit about the everyday lives of Muslim women. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not the type of person who likes being noticed in a crowd. I enjoy blending in, and am perfectly fine without catching anyone’s glance. If I were to be wearing a hijab, however, I knew that would be much different. Some of the women who came to speak to us at the beginning of the week (sadly, I have forgotten their names, which makes me feel horrible because they were absolutely wonderful) described how people walking down the street either stared at them too much, or were obviously avoiding eye contact. People treated them differently for no other reason than that they were wearing a scarf over their head.

So why do Muslim women wear a hijab, you ask? I asked myself this same question at the beginning of the week. When we asked this question to the women sitting before us, I think I can safely say that we were all surprised by the answer. The media has fed us this notion that Muslim women wear a hijab because their culture oppresses men; that they cover every part of their bodies because they are forced too. This idea could not have been any more wrong. Those women could not have been MORE confident in themselves, and it was inspiring to see. They wore the hijab because they felt that true beauty was contain on the inside, not on the outside. They want their potential husbands to love them for who they are and not because of what they look like.

The first task of the week was learning how to wear a hijab. Honestly, it was both less AND more complicated that it looks (which seems like it makes no sense, but hear me out). For being less complicated: as it turns out, we could just wrap an infinity scarf around our head and it worked perfectly! It barely moved. But, if you wanted it to be a little more traditional, then you had to wear a regular scarf. That’s where it got complicated. Apparently, there are about a million+ ways to wear a hijab, and a great majority of them require an abundance of pins. And if there was even the slightest gust of wind, you risked having your hijab blown off. Within a day, I began to feel for Muslim women. It was a struggle just to make it to class without it falling off; I couldn’t imagine having to wear one every day. Also, on the topic of full length clothing; wow. It got real hot, real quick. For those of you who don’t know, in addition to wearing the hijab, Muslim women also wear clothing that covers them from head to toe. I am the type of person to wear t-shirts in the middle of winter because I get hot really easily. If I was struggling mid-fall, I couldn’t imagine how they survived in the summer. 

I did not face much adversity for a lot of the week. I usually look down when I walk anyway, so if people were looking at me strangely, I didn’t really notice. So, I decided that I needed to look up more, to see if people were actually looking at me differently. One of the places that I noticed people looking at me the most was the Centralis competition, where I volunteered as a proctor. I had to stand at the front of Plachta Auditorium and wait until my group was called. One of the biggest things that I noticed was that it was the parents, not the students, that stared at me the most. This shocked me. I figured that the youth would stare the most because they pay the most attention to the media and the plethora of its fabricated information on Muslims. Sadly, it was the parents, the older generation, who gazed openly at us and gave us the side eye. Their children were open and friendly; the parents looked hesitant to even approach some of us. I would love to talk to these people; to find out why their children can be so accepting of other cultures, yet they cannot act the same way.

I don’t know if honors planned this or not, but hijab week just happened to fall on the week of the election. If you have been paying attention to the election at all, you know that a certain candidate does not think too highly of Muslims. Therefore, there are some supporters who feel the same way as well. This made me, and a lot of the other girls, very nervous as the week went on. There were stories going around of Muslim women having their hijab’s torn from their heads, or having racial slurs hurled at them. The prospect of this terrified me. One of the days, I went and volunteered in Flint, and I debated not wearing the hijab. All of these horror stories made me fear for how I would be treated. I finally decided to wear it: not because I figured I would be fine, but because of the realization of why I was wearing the hijab in the first place. Muslim women are going to face this reality for the next four years; the least I can do is wear the hijab for a week.

I learned a lot from participating in Hijab Week, and I gained an immense amount of respect for Muslim women. There are women who, all around the world, wear this hijab every day; it was an amazing experience to be able to walk in their shoes, if only for just a week. Even with people giving me dirty looks, I can still see why they are not afraid to go out everyday wearing the hijab. They have great pride for themselves and their religion, and they are not afraid to show it. That is a kind of confidence we could all learn from.

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