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Valley Activists Pledge to Show Solidarity with Muslim Women on World Hijab Day

Jaclynn captured perfectly what World Hijab Day is about: Seeing the issue from the inside, seeing and feeling the reaction of others to a simple piece of cloth.

by Deedra Abboud in Muslim, Political, Social Views, Solutions
January 31, 2017 0 comments

World Hijab Day is an annual event on February 1st which takes place in 140 countries worldwide. The purpose is to encourage women of all religions and backgrounds to wear and experience the hijab.

What the day is not about is trying to convince women to wear the scarf permanently or become Muslim.

[See local Phoenix event details at the end.]

A pastor friend of mine reached out to me in December about World Hijab Day. She wanted to encourage her congregation to participate but wanted feedback from her Muslim friends about whether it would be offensive.

I assured her it was fine.

Scarves are simply a piece of cloth worn in various styles. Some wear them for religious purposes, some wear them for cultural purposes – this includes both Muslims and those who are not Muslim.

Unlike other religious attire, such as a clergy collar or nun’s Holy habit, the scarves worn by Muslim women are not sacred pieces of cloth in themselves… meaning that the pieces of cloth are treated no better than any other garment when not worn.

Whether you will find them on the floor, draped over a chair, hanging in a closet, or neatly folded is totally dependent on how a woman treats all her clothes.

There is no religious ritual if a woman decides to wear the scarf. She just starts wearing it.

While the time for a Muslim woman to make that choice is the onset of puberty, some girls start wearing it earlier and some later – and some not at all.

If you wear it for a sacred reason, then I agree the ‘wearing’ (not the ‘cloth’) is sacred to you.

Even women who wear the scarf for religious reasons don’t all wear the same type or style. There are Muslims in almost every country in the world, from almost every culture in the world, and that is reflected in the style in which women choose to wear the scarf – as do convenience, personal preference, and fashion trends.

Not everyone wears scarves for sacred reasons, though. It is often worn as a cultural expression, a fashion expression, or just to keep your ears warm.

The observer doesn’t know which one, which is why attacks on scarf wearing women are truly outrageous.

My pastor friend did decide to join World Hijab Day and posted the following statement to her congregation:

Does hijab oppress women?

There are middle eastern countries in which women are forced to cover, whether they want to or not. Those women are oppressed. If we were organizing a demonstration there, it would be a very different demonstration.

Since we live in the US, we are addressing American issues. In the US, Muslim women who want to wear hijab are giving it up out of fear. Hijabi women are insulted and attacked by total strangers for the crime of covering themselves.

When strangers attack or harass a hijabi woman in the US, they are not taking a stand for women’s rights. They are attacking the woman for being a Muslim, which is an attack on freedom of religion. That is the oppression we have here, so that is the oppression we need to oppose here.

We invite you to join with us and show your support for freedom of religion, by wearing hijab every Wednesday, starting 1 February 2017.

We support the right of each woman to decide for herself what religion to follow and how to follow it. No woman should be forced to wear hijab, but neither should any woman be prevented from wearing hijab. Each of us should be free to practice any religion we choose without facing harassment and discrimination. – Pastor Sue Ringler

To make the claim that women wearing the scarf are automatically oppressed or encouraging oppression is no better than the argument that women who wear few clothes are ‘of low morals‘ or are encouraging promiscuity.

Most women just want to get dressed in the morning.

A woman’s morning ritual should not include concerns about whether their attire choices will make them unsafe. 

Last December, a friend visited me from Los Vegas. We met many years ago in law school and have remained very close friends.

Jaclynn is not Muslim.

Every time we are together, she mentions how people stare at me.

I, only the other hand, do not notice. Though I mostly forget I am wearing the scarf and when I do notice people are staring at me, I also remember I am dressed differently than most people – so of course, people would look at me.

If I wore a purple mohawk, people would look at me too.

Just people looking does not automatically mean a negative intent.

When she visited me this time, Jaclynn asked if she could wear one of my scarves for the day. She wanted to know what it was like inside my fishbowl.

I dressed her in a scarf and we went to lunch at a local restaurant. Everything was normal for me… other than seeing her in a scarf! LOL. I didn’t see or feel anything different on that day than any other.

When we got back home, she posted the picture on Facebook with the title: The social experiment has begun.

Some people asked her how the experiment went and this was her reply:

So my experiment was really interesting. When I go places with Deedra Hill Abboud I often notice a variety of looks and reactions to her. I tell her all the time, “hey, did you see so and so looking/watching/glaring at you?” She tells me no 9/10 times. I wondered if I would notice more than usual if I wore a scarf too. Well, Deedra fixed me up and we went out on the town, aka for pizza. I noticed about the same amount of looks but I did notice a difference. I watched as Deedra walked in front of me or to the side of me. I wanted to see who the person saw first: me or Deedra. I saw one woman’s reaction particularly. She saw me first and her reaction was fear and then it went to concern. I am a naturally smiley person, so when I smiled and nodded hello, she softened her face and smiled back expressing relief. So, I guess the experiment reaffirmed my knowledge that people are generally curious and quick to judge. It also showed me something new, that I had not seen or noticed while people watching with Deedra. I saw fear. It was shocking to me, mostly because I am the last person to pick a fight or go off on a stranger. It was real fear and concern. Possibly even a smidge of pity on her face. All in all, I’d like to do it again to collect more observations to help clarify what it is about the religious garb associated with the Muslim culture that causes these reactions. Thankx for asking.

Jaclynn captured perfectly what World Hijab Day is about:

Seeing the issue from the inside, seeing and feeling the reaction of others to a simple piece of cloth.

Though actually wearing the scarf can create that empathy and understanding, just standing up and declaring the scarf should never make a woman a target, no more than wearing anything should make a woman a target, is how everyone can support their fellow women.

Even men.

 

MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JANUARY 31, 2017

Valley activists pledge to wear hijab, a traditional head scarf, in show of solidarity with Muslim women on World Hijab Day

(PHOENIX) Local activists will show solidarity with Muslim women in Arizona and worldwide on Wednesday by wearing the traditional headscarf known as a hijab all day Wednesday.

World Hijab Day is February 1. This is the fifth year for the event, and comes just days after President Trump signed a controversial executive order barring all refugees, including people from seven Middle East countries, from entering the United States.

Who: Phoenix Allies for Community Health, Promise Arizona, AZ American Immigration Lawyers Association
What: World Hijab Day observance and press conference
Where: 2902 West Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, 85017
When: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, 10 – 11 a.m.

“We encourage everyone to attend the Phoenix event and wear a hijab, or take photos and post on your social media (#IStand4Hijab #WorldHijabDay) in a show of support for the world’s Muslim community,” said Deedra Abboud, one of the event’s organizers.

“Anyone who believes in human rights and civil rights, should stand up for the rights of Muslims here and around the world to practice their religion,” said Petra Falcon, executive director.

“The Arizona Chapter of the Arizona Immigration Lawyers Association stands in solidarity with Muslim Women and promotes peace, compassion, and understanding,” said Ruben Reyes, president of AZ AILA.

The goal of the event is to promote peace and respect for the customs, cultural practices and beliefs of communities, and show opposition for bigotry, discrimination and prejudice against Muslim women around the world.

Muslims and non-Muslims alike are invited to wear a hijab for the day to send a message to the world that Arizonans stand united with our Muslim brother and sisters.

In the wake of Trump’s election, Muslim women have been targeted and harassed verbally and physically across the nation. Below are some of the disturbing headlines from U.S. news publications.

– Muslim Women Have Been Attacked at Multiple Colleges Since Trump Won (Vice)
– Muslim High School Teacher Told Hang Yourself With Hijab (NY Daily News)
– UW Bothwell Investigating Possible Hate Crime Against Muslim Women (Seattle Times)
– Proposed Georgia Bill Would Make Wearing Hijab Illegal (NY Mag)

The organizers of this event oppose President Trump’s recently announced ban of Muslim immigrants from seven nations, the temporary ban of all refugees, and the administration’s immigration policies, including his plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

We encourage local supporters to:
Attend the WHD and invite your friends
Observe Hijab on Feb. 1st, 2017
Use the hashtags: #IStand4Hijab and #WorldHijabDay
Organize a WHD event in your community
Send emails or letters to local Masjids showing your support
Write letters to local officials about protecting Muslim women’s right to cover
Show support with your heart, words, and actions
Find us on Facebook and post a photo wearing a hijab
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