At the beginning of the month, we celebrated World Hijab Day, which is on the 1st February every year, it is a campaign to recognise millions of Muslim women who chose to wear the hijab and support others to wear and experience it. This year our BAME Ambassadors were on campus talking to students about what the hijab means to them and supporting others to try it on. Here’s what Umayyah, a BAME Ambassador and committee member of the English and Creative Writing society, had to say:
I started wearing the hijaab when I was very young and so it has become so much more than an item of clothing for me. At different times and situations, it has been my: suit of armour, comfort blanket, declaration to the world, political statement, protection from the cold, and (of course) an important accessory to each and every outfit I own. Put simply, and quite cheesily, it has been an important part of my identity for as long as I can remember which is why I was almost embarrassed to have only found out about World Hijaab Day on February 1st of last year. This was one of the major reasons why I decided to assist at the BAME Ambassador’s stall to raise awareness about it.
Due to previous interactions I have had about the hijaab throughout most of my life, I was expecting a number of people sceptically coming and asking why I even wear it and if I was oppressed. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the non-Muslims and non-hijaab wearers that were coming to speak to us were more interested in trying a hijaab on themselves but had been too scared to do it of their own accord or didn’t know how to put it on correctly.
Everyone was very friendly and more than ready for a chat but most already knew about the hijaab and didn’t have a lot of questions to ask. The few questions we were asked were about personal experience with hijaab rather than its overarching significance to hijaabis in general. It was really great to just have a friendly and humorous conversation about the highs and lows of wearing hijaab from the journey of discovery we went through when we first began to wear them, to embarrassing moments and styles we had experienced.
Wishing a happy World Hijaab Day to other hijaabis passing by elicited a surprised, and somewhat confused reaction from most of them who also hadn’t heard of it before. Most of them stopped and came back to talk to us, finding themselves excited that there was a day that celebrated this important part of who they were. One particular conversation that stood out was with a girl who explained that she had just recently started wearing the hijaab and these events increased her sense of community with her fellow hijaabi sisters.
All in all, the day was one of shared understanding, forming new connections, and an overall feeling of further excitement in my hijaabi identity. I would really like to thank the BAME Ambassador scheme for setting up this event, Nurin Qasrena, Kiran Firdos, and Chloe Parkes for manning the stall alongside me, every person that came to speak to us. Wearing the hijaab can definitely be a trying and complicated journey, but days like this make it so much easier to wear with love for yourself and for others. Also we never really have bad hair days J.