By: Stephanie Huynh | Contributor
Photo by: Michael Dunn | Photographer
Feb. 1 was World Hijab Day, and to celebrate, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) brought back one of their biggest events to give people the opportunity to learn more about the hijab and its significance. This year’s Hot Take on the Hijab event yielded the biggest crowd since the MSA began having the event annually.
The event consisted of a panel discussion, an open Q&A session, buffet-style dinner, informational booths about wrapping a hijab and about the MSA in general, an opportunity to try on a hijab, a “Who Can Wrap the Best Hijab” contest and henna tattoos by the Indian Student Association.
The panelists included MSA President Mariam Omar. Each speaker went into great detail about what the hijab meant to them and how certain assumptions can be detrimental to the Muslim community.
Omar was 9 years old when she first wore a hijab, and she told the audience that, because of her young age, she didn’t truly understand the importance of the hijab. It wasn’t until she reached college that she began seeing and feeling the different ways that people would treat her. She said that many people have the automatic assumption that she “has her life together” because of her hijab. After she began studying at South, she saw that the notion of hijab-wearing women being held to a higher standard is a common belief among a large portion of the community.
The main purpose of “Hot Take on the Hijab” is to destigmatize the action of wearing the hijab and bring light to the dangers and challenges that hijab-wearing women encounter. “Getting to know someone and really understanding Islam, or anything in general that you don’t really know alot of, it comes from talking to people and getting to know them,” said Omar.
The event addressed important topics to educate attendees about the hijab, including its name and history. “Hijab” means “barrier” and the hijab acts as a barrier between the wearer and the world. For many, it’s a symbol of empowerment because a woman who is wearing a hijab is in total control of who is allowed to see which parts of her body.
Speakers said that if a girl chooses to start wearing the hijab, it will most often begin when she reaches puberty. According to Islam Online, the Qu’ran can be interpreted in a way that states that believing men should lower their gaze while believing women should be modest and “draw their veils over their bosoms.” However, some may choose to remove the covering if they aren’t comfortable – that decision is very personal and stays between the woman and God.
The hijab can only be taken off around men as long as they are members of the wearer’s immediate family and/or are blood relatives. One example that was given was that if a wearer’s brother were to invite a male friend over to their home, she would only have to wear her hijab once the friend made it to their house.
The panelists also told attendees about various accommodations that exist for wearers in different industries. For example, some hair salons will have curtains or back rooms for clients whose hair cannot be cut while out in the open.
Hot Take on the Hijab is one of many events that the Muslim Student Association organizes to start the conversations that are necessary to battle prejudices in our community.
“What if we were able to catch these misconceptions, these false ideas, early on? Maybe that’s what MSA’s focus should be,” Omar said. “Teaching kids or having events where people who might not know [come out and really try to understand]. And then they can grow up and teach their kids. And they’ll teach their kids.”