Why students at this US university are trying on hijabs
Personal choice, not oppression. Source: Rawpixel.com on Unsplash

To raise awareness about what it’s like being a Muslim woman, the Muslim Student Association at the University of Iowa tried something hands-on last Wednesday: Letting students of other faiths try on hijabs.

The ‘Hijab It Up’ event on campus let students of other faiths put on the hijab – a veil that some Muslim women wear in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family as a symbol of modesty – while members fielded questions, KWWL reported.

“I think it’s nice for others to step in someone else’s shoes one day and see what it’s actually about instead of just assuming,” said Salma Haider, the group’s president.

“We’re just like you. We’re not different. Islam is about peace.”

One of the main misconceptions about the hijab is it is viewed to be a tool to oppress Muslim women, something which the group wanted to debunk. It can be a woman’s personal choice as well, Haider explains:

“I am a Muslim. I don’t wear a hijab. My sister? She wears a hijab. It’s up to you.”

One of the students who tried on the hijab during the event was Deidra Beavers. The freshman had always thought that the hijab was “something that was kind of forced on people” and “a threat to empowerment”.

“It was nice to get a perspective from people that say, ‘No it’s positive, it’s part of me, it’s part of my culture’,” Beavers said.

The New York Times reported a series of racially motivated episodes have occurred at schools and colleges across the US since the election of property-developer-turned-reality-star Donald Trump as president. This included multiple assaults on several Muslim female students days following the election.

A report by prominent Muslim-American civil rights organization released last November showed reported a “dramatic” rise in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States in 2016, a similar trend as observed in 2015. Anti-Muslim hate crimes grew from 180 incidents in 2015 to 260 in 2016.

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