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World Hijab Day and the women who are breaking boundaries and stereotypes | World News

The hijab has long evoked strong feelings both within Islam and among non-Muslims.

World Hijab Day was created to promote personal freedom of religious expression and to improve cultural understanding by inviting women from all walks of life to wear the hijab for one day, February 1st.

This year marks the 11th annual holiday that aims to encourage “progress, not oppression” supported by the hashtag #UnapologeticHijabi on social media.

Here, Sky News takes a look at the stories of four women, including the founder of a global campaign.

Nazma Khan. Photo: Instagram

How it all started

Nazma Khan launched World Hijab Day in 2013 when she realized she was far from alone in facing prejudice simply because she chose to cover her hair.

She came to the United States from Bangladesh with her family at the age of 11 and moved to her new home in the Bronx, New York.

She began wearing the hijab shortly after moving in and said she has since faced intolerance from some people.

“Women in different parts of the world have also been subjected to abuse and discrimination due to wearing the hijab,” she told Sky News.

“My parents came to America to give us a better education and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”

Founder of World Hijab Day Nazma Khan.  Pictured: Marquis Perkins
Founder of World Hijab Day Nazma Khan. Pictured: Marquis Perkins

When she began to build a life in a country that was foreign to her and her family, she said that she faced many problems and unpleasant comments.

“The kids were waiting for me outside the school to surround me and spit on me”

Describing her encounters and transitions to a new city and school, Ms Khan said she was often bullied and abused by students because of her hijab.

“They called me names like ‘Batman’, ‘Ninja’ and ‘Mother Teresa’,” she said.

She said the children were “waiting for me outside the school to surround me and spit on me” and often threatened to take her hijab off.

“I felt like someone had taken my identity”

Public life after 9/11 was difficult for many Muslims in the US, and Ms Khan, who was in college at the time, said it made her life much worse.

“I was chased through the streets of New York and branded as a terrorist for being clearly a Muslim,” she said.

“I was so afraid to leave the house.”

Racist slurs and chants forced her to remove her hijab.

“I thought maybe it would be easier, but it’s not,” she said.

“I walked into college feeling uncomfortable, I was clinging to my clothes and wanted to cover up.”

After weeping, Ms. Khan said, “I felt like someone had taken away my identity.”

After a day without a hijab, she said that she decided that life without a hijab was not what she wanted and that she decided to challenge her strength in the face of racism and discrimination.

“After I took off the hijab and put it back on, it felt like I was renewing my intentions with the hijab,” she said.

She said that this step gave her strength; racist chants no longer discouraged her, but instead became a source of strength.

The Facebook page that will become a global movement

In 2013, Ms. Khan created a Facebook page called World Hijab Day.

It was designed as a platform where people could gather to tell their stories about hijabs and support each other.

Ms Khan said it also made it possible for non-hijab wearers and non-Muslims to “walk in my shoes one day.”

“I wanted to help my sisters alleviate their situation by making them more hijab aware,” she said.

“Therefore, I asked women of all backgrounds and religions to wear the hijab on February 1st in solidarity with Muslim women.”

She said that by 2014, the World Hijab Day page had been visited by more than 44 million people and became a trending topic on Twitter the following year.

Since its launch 10 years ago, the movement has had many milestones, including recognition in the states of New York and Michigan and posting on Meta’s official Instagram page.

TIME Magazine recognized February 1st as World Hijab Day in 2016.

Non-Muslim women are now taking part in the event by wearing the hijab on February 1, taking selfies and attending events.

freedom of choice

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

While recognizing the benefits of wearing the hijab for many, it is also important to acknowledge that in some parts of the world it has taken on a very different symbolism.

In Iran, women are fighting for their freedom and the right to choose how they dress.

Death Mahsa Amini in 2022 caused outrage across the country.

A 22-year-old girl was arrested by Iran’s so-called “vice police” for allegedly not wearing a hijab in accordance with the country’s strict laws.

Her death in custody prompted many Iranians to take to the streets to oppose the government and its rules on hijabs.

However, in France, while hijabs themselves are not banned, rules also govern how women are allowed to dress.

The country banned the wearing of face coverings or other masks in public places through a law passed in 2011.

And in 2022, a French court ruled that women in the city of Grenoble should not be allowed to walk upright. burkini swimwear in public pools.

Understanding Hijab

The term “hijab” in Arabic means a partition or curtain – both literally and figuratively.

It is also the name of the garment Muslim women wear to cover their hair, which many Muslims believe is obligatory in Islam for all women who have reached puberty.

The hijab is often worn as an act of worship in the Islamic faith.

It has become a sacred form of dress for many Muslim women and is worn in a variety of styles and colors.

For some, the hijab is a sign of resilience, hope, and progress.

Read more:
Two junior lawyers designed and produced court hijabs
The first Barbie doll in a hijab is dedicated to the Olympic fencer

For many women and girls, it is part of their identity, and attitudes towards the hijab and Islam have changed significantly.

From the media world to politics, the hijab and the women who wear it have made strides over the years in breaking down boundaries and rewriting the stereotypes associated with it.

Apsana Begum

Apsana Begum - Labor MP for Poplar and Limehouse.  In the photo: Apsana Begum
Apsana Begum – Labor MP for Poplar and Limehouse. In the photo: Apsana Begum

Apsana Begum, 32, became the first MP to wear a hijab after being elected in 2019 for the Poplar and Limehouse Labor Party.

Telling Sky News about her journey, she recalled the first time she entered the Houses of Parliament.

“It was a full house and I remember heads turning from opposite benches,” she said.

“I stood out and realized the seriousness of what we achieved when I was elected.”

Ms Begum said she thought it paved the way for other hijab-wearing women in the UK who also had ambitions in politics.

“It was incredible to give people a sense of hope and a sense of aspiration,” she said.

She also spoke about specific challenges she faced when she was first elected.

“The context in which we were at that time with the elections and with the former prime minister Boris Johnson’s comments on the “mailbox”… It was hard,” she said.

The hijab is a symbol of togetherness for Ms Begum, and she said she believes it is at the core of who she is as a person.

Fatumo Olow

This was reported by Sky Sports correspondent Fadumo Olow.  Photo: Instagram fatumo_oo
This was reported by Sky Sports correspondent Fadumo Olow. Photo: Instagram fatumo_oo

Fadumo Olow, 27, a sports reporter for Sky Sports, first started wearing the hijab at the age of 11.

She told Sky News that her hijab journey has been influenced by her community members, family and friends wearing it.

Speaking about her association with the hijab, she said that until the age of 16 she “got very relaxed with it, maybe didn’t understand it too much”, but later “made a conscious effort to understand the hijab”.

Ms Olow said that as she grew up, she learned about “the importance of the hijab in Islam, as well as the value it holds for Muslim women around the world.”

“After 16 years, I took it more seriously and it brought me closer to my faith,” she said.

She says the hijab helps her “cheer up” “more than the average person probably thinks,” adding that it was the reason she started wearing it in the first place.

Ms Olow said the hijab gave her “a sense of strength, peace and comfort.”

When asked about the industry she works in, she said, “It’s rare to see women wearing hijabs in sports news.

“However, the steps taken to bring visibility to the industry show that there is room for everyone and we are heading in the right direction.

“The hijab makes me more conscientious and at ease, and I hope to wear it in the best possible way.”

Furwa Shah

Furwa Shah is a 23-year-old journalist.  In the photo: Furwa Shah
Furwa Shah is a 23-year-old journalist. Pictured: Furwa Shah

Furwa Shah is a 23-year-old journalist who started wearing the hijab at the age of 15.

She told Sky News that when she first started wearing clothes, she faced many challenges.

“People that I have known for many years started treating me differently,” she said.

She also highlighted the abuse she faced as a result, facing Islamophobic comments and uncomfortable looks.

Choosing resilience over hate, Ms Shah didn’t let negativity fuel her hijab journey.

She said she thought the hijab brought “a sense of community” and gave her a chance to present her faith in a positive light and change the negative images people associate with Islam.

“The hijab for me is about belonging and empowerment,” she added.

So what’s next for Ms Khan and World Hijab Day?

Speaking about her plans for the future, Ms. Khan said, “We want to create a vocational training and mentoring program for those women who struggle with their hijab.”

She and her team are working to create workshops in educational institutions and workplaces.

They will offer women the opportunity to seek help and advice if they feel their hijab is being threatened.

Ms Khan told Sky News that in order for people to understand Islam and the hijab, “we need dialogue, to change the world, we need to bridge the gap by reaching out our heart and hand to others.

“Our job is to go there and teach so people can understand us.”

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