February 1, 2023| Nazma Khan declared the first World Hijab Day on February 1, 2013. Ten years later, the celebrations continue as Muslim women share their experiences on different platforms about what it’s like to wear the hijab and why they choose to do so. The mission is to remove any stigma associated with wearing the hijab through education, awareness and empowerment.
In honor of World Hijab Day, we asked one of our staff, Hayat Mohamed, Volunteer and Community Partnerships Manager, to share the personal significance of wearing the hijab.
Why have you chosen to wear the hijab and what does it mean to you?
Hijab is a source of empowerment for me. I’ve always grown up being exposed to the hijab seeing my mom/aunts/sisters wearing it. I grew interested at my own pace around the age of 10 and fully committed in my teens! Over the years, it took me a while to understand why I wear something so many of my peers questioned or even had hate towards. Wearing the hijab is something many do not understand, and even as a young child I would get questioned for my choice. The questioning and judgments still continue from time to time but I quickly learned to differentiate genuine curiosity from someone projecting hate on me. Hijab means more than just covering my hair. I grew to understand what wearing the hijab truly meant. The 10-year-old me wore it to be just like my mom and sisters but the 20-year-old me embraced its symbolism of modesty. With that, it also served as a visible representation of my faith and the meaning behind it to keep me grounded.
What are the common misconceptions around wearing a hijab and how do you change the narrative around that?
In the west, seeing a woman wearing the hijab can be interpreted very differently depending on the person. I would also add that the media has heavily influenced very negative connotations associated with the hijab. Many believe that hijab is oppressive or that women are being forced to wear it (both of which are not true). People also think that the hijab is worn by conservative Muslims and that women are limited in terms of having a say in society when wearing the hijab. Hijab is a choice, and it is a spiritual act that is a visible representation of Islam. It also serves as a reminder for me to be my best and respectful self.
Hijabi women are some of the most established, successful women in society and it is unfortunately not understood to its full context by many. There are many forms of hijab as well and no form is superior to the other.
If you are ever curious about the hijab, I promise many of us are friendly to answer some of the questions you have. So no, the hijab is not limiting, no one is forcing us and if anything, we have come to make that choice on our own. As you learn more about the reasons why women wear the hijab, the more you will realize the liberating and true intentions behind it.
What are the ways non-Muslim and non-hijab wearing women can support you, not just only on World Hijab Day?
Hijab is a personal journey for Muslim women, whether she chooses to wear it or not. I encourage you to learn more about the hijab and the true empowering meaning behind it. I would refrain from asking tone-deaf questions and if you have well-intended questions, it is alright to ask. I would also say refrain from making assumptions and to honestly just be respectful. The woman wearing that hijab is just as human as you are, and it is absolutely free to be kind. It is normal to be curious and I am happy to answer questions you have.
Learn more about the hijab and how you can show your support for Muslim women and girls.