I grew up as a 1990’s kid, a time when bell bottom jeans were making a comeback and the culture was all about grunge style and mood rings. In our household, along with platformed flip-flops, there was a special trend that I followed closely, one that was even louder than my ripped wide leg flares – and that was my cotton triangle hijab.
I started wearing hijab when I was 11 years old, at a time, when the only available hijabs were triangular-shaped, cotton, came in basic colors, and were usually adorned by large pieces of weblike lace. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who wore hijab at my public school; however, the handful of us that did never spoke of our experiences wearing it. Whether we were discriminated against or if we were complimented for the ‘pretty colors’, my hijab journey was always my own.
With the advent of World Hijab Day in 2013, Muslim women all over the world have had a chance to speak up about their hijab journeys. For some, the decision to wear the hijab was a childhood choice. Others might have considered wearing it much later into their adulthood. And for a handful, it might be something they’re still pondering to undertake. Regardless of where you are in your ‘hijab journey’, World Hijab Day is a breath of fresh air for hijabis and non-hijabis around the world. It opens the floor for discussions and questions about hijab from women around the world, regardless of faith and culture.
World Hijab Day was founded by New-York based Nazma Khan who “came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the hijab for one day.”
An event held annually; World Hijab Day is celebrated in 190 countries on February 1st. It is a global day of celebrating Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab. Every year, the World Hijab Day Organization invites women from all faiths and backgrounds to wear the hijab for one day in solidarity with Muslim women worldwide. Women are encouraged to drape a scarf over their heads and even men are welcome to wear scarves around their necks in solidarity.
People from across the world can share their stories and walk in the shoes of a Muslim woman wearing hijab. The World Hijab Day Organization has given women a voice and a platform to empower themselves and others. Khan says that “as a whole, World Hijab Day is the perfect day to promote greater religious tolerance and understanding in our communities through communal bonding of accepting each other; thus, making us stronger as a society.
This year’s official tag line is “Hijab is our crown, not a crime” with the hashtag #dressednotoppressed. The theme this year is in response to the increase in hate crimes against Muslims around the world. As stated on the World Hijab Day website, “women around the world will have an opportunity to take a stand against discrimination faced by Muslim girls and women, for their choice of wearing the hijab.“
In just this past year, multiple countries have taken measures against Muslim women’s modest dress. In March 2021, France voted to ban children under the age of 18 from wearing hijab; and in the same month, Switzerland banned full-face veils. Then in July 2021, the European Court of Justice ruled that women could be fired from their jobs for refusing to remove their hijabs. These countries have only followed suit of similar clothing restrictions, specifically directed at Muslim women.
With a growing number of Muslim women practicing hijab now, there’s also been an equally increased incidence of discrimination against Muslim women all over the world. World Hijab Day comes at a time when global support is needed for women who are being discriminated against because of their Muslim identity.
Nazma Khan related how World Hijab Day has made an impact locally. She relates, “Just earlier this week, a school district in my hometown, New York City, with 11,000 students learned about World Hijab Day. I just kept staring at those pictures. The very school setting where I was bullied for wearing the hijab is the same environment where students are now educated about the hijab. This is how we help our next generation, insha’Allah (god-willing)”
Hijab has interestingly been the cause of much contention as well as much celebration in recent years, in part due to events like World Hijab Day. Many girls (and women alike) celebrate the decision to begin wearing hijab with a ‘Hijab Party.’ An event commemorated with friends, cake, and décor.
Moreover, the hijab trend in recent years has encouraged more women to speak of their shared experiences. More women speak up about how hijab gives them freedom and independence; thereby shattering the age-old narrative that Muslim women and hijab are ‘oppressed.’ Muslim women are now continuously debunking myths splayed by politicians and nay-sayers.
Simultaneously, the hijab trend has given us so many more choices of hijab styles and fabrics. Long gone are the days of block colored triangular cotton scarves. We have now welcomed hijabs of rainbow colors, fabrics of varying textures, patterned hijabs, turban hijabs, pins of every shape and size and at the height of our recognition, we now also have a hijabi emoji.
As a kid growing up in 2022, my daughter, who is now 11, is living in a time where flare jeans are back (again), comfort clothing is in style and everyone’s phone is now their accessory. In our household, along with an abundance of fancy sneakers, there is a trend of sports hijabs, rectangular chiffon hijabs, weighted jersey hijabs, and an excess of hijab accessories. Thankfully, she has a squad of hijab wearing friends who can talk about their hijab journeys and an entire globe of women who will support her with it. #dressednotoppressed.