Founded by New York native, Nazma Khan in February of 2013, World Hijab Day (WHD) celebrates the millions of Muslims from around the world who wear hijab.
What Is World Hijab Day All About?
Observed in February every year, the day is all about promoting the donning of the hijab and urging women to experience a day with the hijab on. With the hope of cultivating an understanding of religious expression, Khan hopes that World Hijab Day becomes more about learning what hijab means to a Muslim woman. What’s more, she also hopes that it also educates people and raises awareness about why many Muslim women have chosen to wear the hijab. By educating, the initiative prompts women to try it out for themselves to see how they feel.
Commenting on her experiences with the hijab as early as 11, Khan says, “Growing up in the Bronx, New York City, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab. In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja.’ When I entered University after 9/11, I was called Osama bin laden or a terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.”
For many around the world, Hijab has become a means of feeling liberated and protected. We spoke to Mizz Nina, founder of Qalby App who told us, “I dress more modestly for the reason of wanting to please Allah. I wear the hijab because I feel safe, I feel beautiful in hijab and because I know it is something that pleases Allah and I hope to earn paradise through this deed inshAllah“.
A Global Phenomenon
With around 150 countries taking part in this initiative, mainstream news, scholars and many other key figures have expressed their admiration for such an endeavour.
World Hijab Day is a beautiful initiative in which Muslim sisters can experience the beauty of hijab and hopefully transition from a 1-day commitment to a lifetime commitment inshAllah. It also gives non-Muslims a chance to show their solidarity and learn what it’s like to be a Muslim woman.Shaykh Omar Suleiman
Using the hashtag #DressedNotOpressed, many women from around the globe take to social media on this day to express their inner feelings about the hijab.
In a report by Arab News, a spokesperson for the World Hijab Day Organisation said, “Unfortunately, there are some countries that want to ban our religious garments across their entire countries, (and this event) allows us to find more of the voices who are against this oppression (in the form) of denying our right to wear our religious garments.”
This year is all about standing strong with Canadian Muslim teacher, Fatemah Anvari who was removed from a classroom simply because she wore the hijab. With many supporting the “Teachers For Fatemah” campaign, many non-Muslims are even backing this.
Hijabophobia is a Growing Concern
Over many years, hijabi women have faced high levels of hostility from a wide range of people. With hijab being synonymous with terms such as terrorist and oppression, Muslim women wearing hijab have had to face mistreatment in many different ways.
As Khan faced much prejudice since childhood because she wore a hijab, she wanted others to understand how it felt to wear a hijab. She wanted to show people that it felt liberating and that it is simply a cloth that symbolises God-consciousness and modesty.
Her initiative eventually gained unexpected popularity, and it attracted the attention of Theresa May, who attended an event at the House of Commons to commemorate the day. What’s more, in 2021, The Philippines adopted World Hijab Day with the Philippines House of Representatives recognising February 1 as World Hijab Day.
Nazma Khan Speaks To The Washington Post
Khan’s story has gained popularity and now The Washington Post has written a piece about it recently. Speaking to them, Khan expresses her true feelings about why she chose to have a single day for hijab.
“I kept on thinking about it, and I was like, ‘What if I asked women from all walks of life to wear the hijab for one day?’” she told The Washington Post. She also added, “Maybe they will see that I am not hiding a bomb underneath my scarf or that this scarf does not have a life of its own to oppress me.”