by HALEY BURNSIDE, Senior Writer
World Hijab Day is an international event in which non-Muslim women wear the hijab for a day and use the experience to educate themselves on daily life for Muslim women around the world. The Muslim Student Association, or MSA, held an informational table on Friday, Feb. 1 in order to share their stories with each other and their non-Muslim allies.
The tabling session, which lasted for two hours, was a joint effort between the MSA and the Just Peace club. While the groups offered snacks and warm refreshments to students, they took time to share information and educational material on the Muslim faith.
Senior Donya Quhshi, vice president of the MSA, spearheaded the event on campus. As someone who has worn the hijab by choice since she was 11 years old, this was an important day for her to share her story.
“We wanted to do World Hijab Day mainly to raise awareness of the issues with people’s perception of the hijab. Many people believe we are oppressed. That’s the biggest misconception, that Muslim women are oppressed by their religion. They see the hijab as a symbol of that oppression,” said Quhshi.
Quhshi and her fellow MSA members hope that events like the World Hijab Day help clarify some of the confusion surrounding the identities of Muslim women.
“Essentially, we just want to put out accurate information,” said Quhshi.
The day is about more than just the Muslim aspect of Quhshi’s identity. It also heavily deals with her role as a woman in the Muslim community.
“I think with modern feminism, many women feel liberated by wearing less clothing. That’s totally fine. I think that women should be empowered by whatever they want to do, but sometimes those differences make it so that feminism isn’t very inclusive of Muslim women,” said Quhshi
She went on to explain how this should be fixed through proper education.
“Many Muslim women feel that empowerment by wearing the hijab and pleasing their God. They draw those feelings of empowerment from their faith, which should also be celebrated and acknowledged. We deserve to have a space in the feminist movement,” said Quhshi.
She believes that World Hijab Day provides Muslim women a platform to speak while providing non-Muslims the experience to be open about their confusions and misconceptions.
“We encourage people who have questions about the hijab or people who just want to be educated more to come to speak to us and allow our voices to be heard,” said Quhshi.
Rachel Roca, a member of Just Peace, was one of these people. She attended the event to learn about Islam from her Muslim peers. With the help of Fatoumata Saho, the secretary of MSA, Roca put on a hijab for the first time.
“I think this is a really cool event and it’s a nice interactive way to spread awareness. It’s a positive way to spread information when you hear so many negative things in the media about hijabs,” said Roca.
Roca, who is not Muslim, found that World Hijab Day was a good way for her to learn about the experiences of Muslim women by wearing the hijab herself.
“I just want to understand better and educate myself so I can be a good ally,” said Roca.
A number of women asked Quhshi and Saho to help them put on hijab. The MSA members were ready and willing to assist, offering education and information as they did so.
Rabea Ali, the president of MSA, hopes that by holding events like World Hijab Day, the Muslim students of Manhattan College have the opportunity to connect with the other students who want to understand Islam better.
“This is a chance to educate about Islam and about the hijab, which is one of the points of the biggest misconceptions worldwide but also on our campus,” said Ali. “I hope people take general knowledge from this, but also this is one of those opportunities for people to ask all the questions that they think are dumb but really aren’t.”
Overall, Quhshi was excited to see students embracing the opportunity to learn more about Islam.
“The people who came to our table to hear our voices, listen to our stories and even try on the hijab are doing so because they want to be allies. They want to be educated. This day is about sharing that moment so that non-muslim women can learn from our experiences, both through our stories and from wearing the hijab themselves,” said Quhshi.