New Delhi: A day before the celebration of World Hijab Day, women on Twitter are polarised with respect to the way they choose to mark this initiative. Every year, 1 February marks World Hijab Day and recognises millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and “live a life of modesty”. Running parallel alongside this initiative is ‘No Hijab Day’.
Even though both initiatives intend to dispel stereotypes faced by hijab wearing women, their approach to it is different. Launched in 2013 by New York-based Nazma Khan, World Hijab Day aims to promote religious tolerance by calling for both non-Hijabi Muslim women and non-Muslim women to wear the hijab for a day.
However, several women on Twitter have urged hijab wearers to “free themselves” from the piece of cloth used by Muslim women to cover their head. This is in light of women in Iran and Saudi Arabia being forced to wear the Hijab and not having the same privileges and rights as an American hijabi woman.
“Who are we to pretend that we know so little about human well-being that we have to be non-judgmental about a practice like this.”
–@SamHarrisOrg, father of two girls
— Yasmine Mohammed ياسمين محمد 🦋 (@YasMohammedxx) January 30, 2020
Do you how it feels to go outside during summer maybe buy an ice cream then sit down in a park or anywhere you can enjoy the breeze of a fresh air on your skin and hair while eating that delicious ice cream you just bought.
— اقتباسات ممنوعة (@qoutesForbiden) January 30, 2020
On February 1st , #WorldHijabDay we stand in solidarity with Iranian women inside prisons , with moslem women who risk their lives and protest forced hijab
We rise our white scarves and say No to Compulsory Hijab
No more Discrimination #FreeFromHijab#WhiteWednesdays pic.twitter.com/WGY8F691Fi
— ☼𓃬 Shaparak Shajari zadeh ☼𓃬 #FreeFromHijab 🏳️ (@shaparakshjr) January 29, 2020
It’s a kind of slavery
💪🏻 free Women do Not caver them self. pic.twitter.com/NC1QGHyV89
— Rana Ahmad 🛰 (@lovhum) January 25, 2020
World Hijab Day
This year, the World Hijab Day Organisation has called on women from all faiths across the world to join the discussion using the hashtag #EmpoweredinHijab. It has listed ways for women to be a part of this endeavour, from uploading pictures with hashtags, sending emails to local mosques for support, sending money for donation to marking this day in their local communities.
Largely driven on social media, this motto for this year is ‘Unity in Diversity’ and invites women to “flood your social media with the hashtag (#EmpoweredinHijab)”. Many women have expressed solidarity on Twitter.
— World HijabDay (@WorldHijabDay) January 31, 2020
FEU Muslim Circle is giving women of all backgrounds and faith a chance to have a firsthand experience to wear the hijab to have a better understanding of its relevance in Muslim women’s lives. The event is ongoing at the FEU Plaza until 6pm. Tom Feb 1, 2020 is #WorldHijabDay. pic.twitter.com/hmEx7yJOXK
— Far Eastern University (@FarEasternU) January 31, 2020
— 𝑰𝒔𝒍𝒂𝒎&𝑷𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒆 (@KhanRamlah) January 29, 2020
Nazma Khan’s story
New York based Nazma Khan, who ideated World Hijab Day, came to the United States from Bangladesh at the age of 11. She was the only hijabi in her middle school and says it was a difficult experience for her.
“Growing up in the Bronx, in NYC, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab…In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’,” Najma recalls. “When I entered University after 9/11, I was called Osama bin Laden or terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask for our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.”
People from over 190 countries are estimated to take part in the World Hijab Day every year. One of the major milestones for the cause was when the New York State recognised World Hijab Day in 2017. In the same year, the House of Commons hosted an event marking the day, which was attended by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Speaking at a press conference commemorating the day, Hajia Mutiat Balogun, executive director of Hijab Right Advocacy Initiative, said, “The promotion of girl child education can only be achieved if the girls in hijab are not harassed or molested by their teachers on the basis of hijab usage.”
‘Bitter irony and mountainous hypocrisy’
An article published by the National Review calls the event a “farce” in light of the “bitter irony and mountainous hypocrisy” surrounding it. It labels the initiative ironic because of the “hyprocrisy” behind an American Muslim woman encouraging others to wear the hijab, when women in Iran and Saudi Arabia are protesting against their male counterparts by taking the hijab off.
It also points out that 1 February coincides with the day (1 February 1979) when Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from his French exile bringing with him the Islamic Revolution. His regime enforced purdah and the covering of women.