The world we live in today requires that we have some type of working knowledge of other cultures and religions than our own.
How well do you really know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes?
Do you think everyone in your community is treated the same as you?
I was struck by a show I watched a few years ago, 30 Days. Morgan Spurlock (from the documentary Super Size Me) lived as a Muslim for 30 days, learning how to pray, visiting the mosque for Friday prayers, and talking to people on the streets about their opinions about Islam.
The result of his experience didn’t surprise me as much as the idea that he would actually do it.
As women, there’s an easy way to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, even if it’s just for a day.
Wear the hijab, or the traditional head scarf that Muslim women wear for religious reasons.
Want to feel solidarity with others that are trying this out, too? Do so on World Hijab Day, February 1st.
The experiences are varied, but generally quite positive as people see how their local communities react to them.
One woman noted:
it was like any other clothing choice: once on, people either said they liked it or they ignored it. No one stared, no one said anything negative, and those that asked were interested in the project itself.
On the internet was a somewhat different story. There, I was challenged in my support of “countries” that force women to wear veils.
I had it easy. I work and live in accepting and diverse spaces. But even in those few comments, I felt the sadness that some of my sisters must feel when by choosing to wear a hijab out of modesty or devotion to their faith, they are immediately judged as being part of an oppressive regime.
You can find more stories on the World Hijab Day website.
And I want to tell you a little bit of my own experience, and why I so deeply wish that more women would give World Hijab Day a chance:
I grew up in an inner-ring suburb, so not completely isolated from diversity, but there was still a definite white majority, mainly Scandinavian. As I grew up and made friends with people from different ethnicities, I knew that not everyone was treated the same. When I dated black men, I saw the stares we would get. When I babysat my friend’s black son and took him to the store, I noticed how people would watch me and stare at him.
But what is notable is that none of this was aimed at me specifically. I was always an observant bystander, but rarely the target of the people’s glares.
That changed when I started wearing hijab. It started as practicing wearing hijab about 20 miles from my home. I brought my oldest daughter to her religious class on Sunday and I would run errands in the area, wearing hijab throughout the morning.
The change in how I was treated was palpable. There’s no way to not notice. Literally, I’ve had kids stare at me, and then walk backwards to keep staring when they walk past me.
But also how people talk to me has changed. They explain very simple things, or tell me my English is great (well, I’d certainly hope so).
If you’ve ever wondered if white privilege is really a thing, it most certainly is.
White privilege has various definitions, but the way I see it is being able to navigate through the world without being treated like an outsider. Now, all of us have differences that we have to explain, but the difference is having to overcome large hurdles in assumptions about your character and your family before even getting past the most surface-level relationship.
A bit of a tangent, but I do believe the word privilege is getting over used currently. We label financial privilege, Christian privilege, and all the rest.
Me using the term white privilege may come with some emotional baggage for some, but at least
But even if you don’t see yourself as an activist, can you see yourself as being empathetic to another person? Can you see yourself trying to understand what it feels like to not have that privilege, whatever that might be?
How to take part in World Hijab Day (Feb 1)?
There are lots of different types of hijabs. If you’re feeling adventurous, and want to have a scarf to keep later, you can always use a fashion scarf. An amira hijab is one that slips on and is the easiest to wear, and a square scarf is between the two in complexity.
Personally, I’m lost at wearing hijab without an underscarf and some pins, but I know many people who make it work without either.
And how do you wear hijab? YouTube is your best friend for this, and I think I watched a dozen videos before I wore hijab for the first time. You can find some vloggers that get really creative with it, but my advice is to keep it simple.
What to do on World Hijab Day?
Go about your normal routine! Go grocery shopping, head to the mall, whatever you already had planned. Be ready for questions, especially from people you know.
I’ve missed World Hijab Day, I forgot it was on the 1st, but I’ve thought about it in previous years. One of my concerns is whether it is appropriate to wear the headscarf if the rest of my outfit isn’t in line with what Muslim women would usually wear – for instance my necklines are often lower than any Muslim woman I’ve seen, albeit not indecently so.
Shannen Espelien says
I’d say to not let there be too many barriers to giving a try and use what you have. Some easy ways to make a regular outfit more modest is to use cardigans and maxi skirts, plus they are super easy to find in your typical department store. Best wishes!