On Thursday, Feb. 1, the Muslim Student Association will be providing students of all faiths at the University of Southern Mississippi with the chance to wear and learn about the hijab in the Union lobby from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The event is inspired by World Hijab Day, which was created by New York resident and Muslim woman Nazma Khan in 2013 in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and disproving misconceptions about why Muslim women wear the hijab.
President of the Muslim Student Association and freshman biomedical science major Sumar Beauti said that a common belief is that Muslim women are forced to wear the hijab.
“The hijab is often seen as a form of oppression, so having this worldwide event can help change that view on the hijab, which is why Muslim Student Associations all around the world, including USM MSA, continue to hold this event every year.”
To one Muslim student, sophomore biological sciences major and international student from Nigeria, Mariam Atobiloye, the hijab symbolizes, “freedom and liberty as I choose to show what I want to show to the world, and conceal what I feel like concealing.”
Despite that, Atobiloye says that stories about Islamophobia made her nervous prior to her move to the United States.
“I am originally from Nigeria, and I was born and raised as a Muslim,” said Atobiloye. “Before coming, I had seen from the news and stories back home that Islamophobia is a real issue in America. Also, I knew that the South was a Christian majority place, so finding and joining the MSA at USM was a decision that I made to help me feel more ‘at-home’ religion-wise.”
According to Beauti, there are currently 20 members in the Muslim Student Association, and events like Hijab Day are important to educate the community about Islam through interaction with Muslim students.
Since Atobiloye moved to Mississippi, she says that she has not felt discriminated against due to her faith. She does, however, receive stares whenever she chooses to wear the hijab.
“Most of the people that I have met here are very supportive and respectful of my religion actually. . . I do cover my hair at all times, however I do not use the hijab every time. I mostly use scarves,” said Atobiloye. “On days that I choose to wear the hijab, I receive stares from SEVERAL people. The stares are even more [frequent] when I leave campus and go [to] places like Walmart.
The Muslim Student Association is actively searching for female students who are interested in wearing the hijab for the entire day and are willing to document their experiences.
Sophomore theatre major Katarina Kristensen agreed to take on the challenge.
“I’ve always wanted to wear a hijab to see what it was like through the eyes of all the Muslim women that get scrutinized for practicing their faith in America,” said Kristensen. “I am not expecting to get the full gist of how it is for all those women that wear them for all of their lives, but I hope to experience a taste of it.”
Those who participate in Hijab Day are encouraged to post pictures of themselves on Instagram wearing the hijab with the hashtags #hijabdayUSM and #walkamileinherhijab to be entered in a prize drawing.
“Modesty is not cultural,” said Beauti. “In fact, it has been found in every major religion including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.”
Anyone interested in wearing the hijab for the day or finding out more about the Muslim Student Association should contact Beauti via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.