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World Hijab Day matters, now more than ever before

Febuary 1st is a much anticipated day, but depending on where you are, it’s squeamish for some. It’s World Hijab Day.

I come from a country where dress up days are the norm, spans two days, is a tourist attraction and a source of national pride. Carnival. Dating back to colonial times it was a means of bodily resistance by slaves through dress by dressing and behaving like the colonial masters. It has evolved since then but some things still hold: it’s an active way of learning and it’s ingrained into society (for those two days at least). For two days before Ash Wednesday, people parade the streets in colorful hand crafted costumes and  carry out performances which match them.

[bctt tweet=”Depending on where you are, it’s squeamish for some. It’s World Hijab Day. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Carnival’s seen as a means of embracing your national identity, so some people parade in Indian  costumes paying homage to our indigenous people or other traditional costumes.

Others, mostly women, parade in more revealing costumes perhaps to have the space where it’s ok to wear whatever you want without being judged, or, maybe in their or others views, to be liberated.

Apart from Carnival it is customary that people wear Indian outfits for Eid, Divali or Indian weddings though they may not be of the same race or religion.

There’s a common thread that it’s a dress up day for white women in particular so they may feel the “otherness.” I don’t disagree that it’s appropriation, it is, but to think that something like this is geared mostly  to a white majority non-Muslim society is wrong even though it was such a society that inspired the day. The society I come from is both a white and Muslim minority one. The “otherness” that’ll be felt by the non-Muslims as they wear hijab, for the most part, were regarded as “others” in society too.

The concept behind World Hijab Day, therefore, is not too far a reach, and can actually be well suited for my society.

As a usually blissfully unaware society, we’re more keen on accepting rather than questioning. Something like this changes that, if only for a few hours and if you’re willing to learn.

In order for us to be able to learn, or better grasp what something’s about , we  don it. From feeling the fabric to wrapping it around heads and whatever emotions they may feel because of it. Experience and emotions together play a major role in understanding others  or reaffirming national or personal identity.

[bctt tweet=”Experience and emotions play a role in understanding personal identity. “]

This year, like last year, participants were asked to write how they feel when they wore hijab; though some may be turned off by it, it’s an important question to ask in this context .

There’s an adage that says people will remember the way you made them feel more than what you said to them, so the issue is what do you tell them about physically wearing hijab? The method of delivery hopefully barring a lollipop analogy will no doubt vary as each hijabi’s experience and viewpoint is their own, it’s a glimpse into a part of their life that is very personal, and difficult to put into words.

Instead of dawah booths, this method of exposure to Islam or Muslims, is more interactive; more than just a pamphlet, you take away a snippet of a person’s life.

Wearing hijab is not the be and end all of a Muslim woman, it’s not a conventional method of educating someone on Islam, but without question hijab is something that intrigues people. There are many other ways to introduce people to Islam, but in such times as these, any effort to bridge the gap is a step towards making it better.

By Saffiyya Mohammed

Caribbean woman but not by your preconceived notions; there’s a Trini everywhere so I’m the one here. As the Senior Community Editor for The Tempest, she knows two things for sure: writing can change the world, and if you have a story to tell, you owe it to yourself to share it. Born and bred island girl, she’s contemplating the next destination for her adventure while also being a bibliophile, writer, and planeteer.

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