Feb. 1 marks a significant day which honors Muslim women who wear the hijab. This year, the Muslim Student Association brought the celebration of World Hijab Day to Manhattan College.
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) took to the campus quadrangle from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon to raise awareness about the hijab, even offering the opportunity for students to wear one for a day. Members of the MSA executive board estimated about 40 to 50 people who attended the event decided to wear the hijab that day.
World Hijab Day was the first major event hosted by the MSA this semester. And according to Rabea Ali, the club’s president, the event was a necessary one.
“I just felt like it was something this campus needed, considering that fact that any sort of information about Islam, Muslims and especially the hijab is so misconstrued on this campus, so it was kind of something we needed to do, and if not us, who?” Ali said.
Donya Quhshi, treasurer of the MSA, believes that there are many widely held beliefs about wearing the hijab that are simply not true.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about the hijab, about Muslim women: that we’re oppressed, that we don’t get to make our own choices,” she said. “The truth is a hijab is our own choice.”
“It doesn’t make us oppressed. It doesn’t silence us,” Ali said. “If anything, on this campus, I would say that I’m plenty of people’s first exposure to the fact that anyone that wears a hijab isn’t quiet and just automatically silent, because I’m like that loud, annoying person who’s the first to shoot people down and they’re like, ‘You? You sure?’”
The club distributed flyers with information about the hijab, including answers to widely-held misconceptions about the women who wear them. While some of the misconceptions were serious, some of the club’s responses to them were humorous.
In response to the question of whether women who wear hijab do so at all times, the flyer said, “We do not shower and sleep in them. Women do not need to wear the hijab at home or around close family, just in public. Also, we do have hair under our hijabs…it is not the gateway to Narnia.”
Both Ali and Quhshi wear the hijab on a daily basis.
“I wore the hijab way before I was required to wear it, because it was my choice, because I really loved it. And I saw my mother wearing it, and I saw my whole family wearing it,” Quhshi said. “I never saw it as something that oppresses me, or something that I have to wear, that I have no choice in.”
“I started in the fourth grade, and it was kind of one of those things where it was cultural rather than religious. And then I went to the mosque more and more, and kind of found the religious meaning of it, and was totally down for it,” Ali said.
During middle school, Ali lost someone dear to her, leading her to forgo the hijab and her religion for some time. But a few years later, her love for Islam resurfaced.
“In high school, reality struck, and I kind of fell in love with my religion, and that brought me back. And kind of, since then, I’ve kind of been more serious about it,” she said.
The MSA was not the only student organization participating in the event. A few members of the fraternity Alpha Phi Delta helped with the event in order to show their support for the MSA’s mission.
“It’s really great, like everybody that’s come to the table is just super happy, and they just want to learn and understand,” said Alpha Phi Delta member Gabriel Campbell. “It’s a super great environment, and kudos to the ladies [of the MSA] here for standing in the cold, being able to say all this with a smile on their face.”
“Alpha Phi Delta started based upon people getting oppressed,” said Michael Moon, another member of Alpha Phi Delta. “About a hundred years ago, it was a group of Italian kids, and at the time, a lot of them were being pushed down and told they weren’t as good. And this event really portrays that, especially the fact that there’s still a lot wrong.”