Ten years ago World Hijab Day was envisioned by founder Nazma Khan to be a starting point for ending misconceptions and fostering greater understanding between non-Muslims and Muslims. How? By non-Muslims wearing hijab, even if just for one day, to experience the feeling of being visibly Muslim.
In this interview
I did with Nazma three years ago, she said the overall mission of World Hijab Day has not changed, and is “to create a more peaceful world where global citizens respect each other through religious tolerance and understanding. The message is consistent and will not change until we break the stereotypes faced by those wearing the hijab.”
Rebeka Islam believes in this as well. The executive director of APIA Vote Michigan (Asian Pacific Islander Americans) approached Michigan Sen. Stephanie Chang to sponsor a state senate resolution officially recognizing World Hijab Day on February 1st, which passed with ease.
Rebeka Islam; photo taken by Larry Lipton
"Wearing the hijab is a choice, a freedom, and a blessing – a message that leaders in the American Muslim community have tirelessly worked to convey,” Rebeka says. “It’s a blessing for me. That’s what I want people to really know. I take pride in it. I believe one of America’s strengths is to embrace different cultures and faiths and to freely express themselves.”
In the ten years since Nazma started World Hijab Day, the event has enjoyed many milestones. Just like Michigan is recognizing World Hijab Day this year, the New York Senate recognized February 1, 2017, as “ World Hijab Day” in its state. Also in 2017, the parliament in the United Kingdom hosted World Hijab Day where the Prime Minister Theresa May was present.
In 2018, the Scottish Parliament hosted a three-day World Hijab Day exhibition. During the exhibition many politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, showed their support for World Hijab Day.
Sen. Chang says she was honored to sponsor the Michigan senate resolution, adding that passing such resolutions (which last a year), helps to highlight certain issues, people or events that are of cultural significance. “By officially recognizing Feb. 1 as World Hijab Day this year, it will forever be marked in our senate journal in perpetuity,” Sen. Chang says. “It doesn’t necessarily change policy, but it’s an important recognition in a state body that makes policy.”
Michigan Sen. Stephanie Chang
Rebekah has always participated in World Hijab Day in some way, shape or form since college. “Sometimes I didn’t have the capacity in me to do [something big]. The past few years I haven’t had the chance to focus on things that are important to me because of everything happening in our political atmosphere and because of COVID,” she says. “This is very personal, and oftentimes the things that are personal to us – we don’t bring it into the workspace or prioritize it. This being the tenth year, I thought – this is the year to do it!”
And, as Nazma said in her original interview with me, “This work we are doing is solely for the sake of Allah (S) in order to help our sisters who are facing difficulties for their choice of wearing the hijab. And, our work has had positive, productive output around the world.”
We are so excited to see the positivity around World Hijab Day and different events happening around the world on this day. As our founder Melanie says, we know Muslim women hold incredible power. It’s “the invisible force-field that comes from within and the long line of distinguished Muslim women upon whose shoulders we stand.” Our very goal, Melanie says, is to “elevate the experience of hijab for every women who chooses to wear one” and support Muslim women however we can.”
Are you partaking in any World Hijab Day celebrations or activities? Share with us in the comments below!