Campus News

‘Hijabi for a Day’ aims to end stigma, provide new perspectives

A Hijabi volunteer helps a non-Muslim participant of “Hijabi for a Day” put on their hijab, which they, along with 44 other individuals, wore all day Wednesday.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

For many Muslims on campus, wearing a hijab comes with a number of daily challenges. On Wednesday, 45 non-Muslim participants wore hijabs to try and get a sense of the Hijabi experience.

Wisconsin Union Directorate Global Connections Director Swetha Saseedhar, along with Muslim Student Association members Noor Hammad and Iffa Bhuiyan, said the goal of the event was to normalize the hijab on UW-Madison’s predominantly white campus.

WUD Global Connections and the MSA partnered to bring “Hijabi for a Day” to campus after they saw the project conducted nationwide by organizations such as BuzzFeed.

“People who might not be used to seeing someone they know wearing a hijab might be more inclined to see the beauty of it and not just see it as something that people are oppressed by, but something that people, when they wear it, feel that they have agency,” Saseedhar said.

According to a presentation given by Hammad, hijabs are worn by individuals who wish to be modest, showcase their internal beauty and also for spiritual purposes. Another goal the group had for the day was to educate people about these reasons and eliminate the connotation of oppression that many people have with hijabs.

Participants were helped by volunteers to put on their hijabs properly. These volunteers also supported the new Hijabis by answering questions via text message throughout the day.

UW-Madison freshman volunteer Buruj Mohammed said participants told her about some negative comments they received, but had mostly positive feedback about their experience.

“It was important for us to be there so we could help people feel confident about their decision to wear the scarf and to know that there’s someone who has experience with wearing the scarf,” Mohammed said.

Mohammed said the event was important because it raised awareness of and showed solidarity with Muslim women. UW-Madison sophomore Kaitlynne Roling echoed this and said she hoped participating in Hijabi for a Day would stimulate conversations among her peers.

“I did it so I could understand what my Muslim brothers and sisters go through on a day to day basis,” Roling said. “I would love to form another way to communicate with my peers on their experiences and be an ally.”

UW-Madison Professor Anna Gade, an expert on Islam, said that the event makes sense during Islam Appreciation Week because it allows people to understand the diversity of Islam, which participants like Roling aimed for.

"I think that 'Hijabi for a Day' is really in the spirit of what the Qur'an says when it teaches its readers that people of diverse backgrounds and identities, including Muslims, should 'get to know one another' (Qur. 49:13),” Gade said in an email.

Roling said she did not experience anything negative during the day, which was not what she expected. She said she feels as though she did gain a deeper connection to Hijabi women.

“I feel very educated,” Roling said. “I hopefully can take this knowledge and help other people get educated on this topic. I feel a little bit of understanding, not entire understanding because nothing can equate to that, but my level of connection and understanding has been heightened.”

UPDATE Dec. 12, 12:01 p.m.: This story was updated to accurately quote a UW-Madison expert. 

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