The Muslim Students Association was giving out free hijab headscarves at a booth near the Merchant’s Row thoroughfare between the campus bookstore and the Psychology building Tuesday.
By the end of the event, over 100 people had attended and most of the hijabs had been handed out by the members of the MSA.
The giveaway was part of the “Islam Awareness Week”, an annual event hosted by MSA. This year’s theme was a “Hijabi Challenge” where the student religious organization challenges non-Muslim female students to wear a hijab for an entire day.
“Maybe 110 people have taken up the challenge and we ran out of stickers,” said Hajer Rawag, the senior biology major that set up the event for the MSA. “It’s been my favorite Hijab Day by far.”
The local event is very similar to the larger World Hijab Day, normally celebrated by Islamic women on Feb. 1. As with the national event, the goal of the Hijabi Challenge was to let non-Muslim women experience what it is like to walk in their shoes and counter Islamophobia, according to Shaikh.
“By participating, it allows women to walk in the shoes of a hijabi,” Shaikh said. “Women who try it for the day say that people treated them differently. Some people might not look them in the eye. Other people might have even said something.”
The hijabs at this year’s event came in three purple shades. Members of the MSA demonstrated how to properly put the hijabs on for the women coming up to try them on. The MSA also handed out stickers and painted henna body art for those that were interested.
“A Hijab is a scarf that a Muslim woman wears,” said Aliyah Shaikh a senior International Studies major and the Vice President of the MSA. “There are a lot of misconceptions about the hijab, that it is oppressive or that [women] are forced to wear them. The way the Muslim women here would articulate it is quite contrary to that. They would say that they choose to wear it so they’re known for their minds and not their looks or their bodies.”
Despite the connotations hijabs sometimes carry, students on campus still find pride in the expression of their culture – or appreciation in the opportunity to learn.
“I just saw everyone and they looked so empowered,” said Gabriela Ochoa, a senior Liberal Studies major who received a free headscarf. “Wearing the hijab . . . it feels like you’re connecting [to your community] and I wanted to be a part of that.”