Muslim Students’ Association teaches students about the meanings behind hijab

Eleanor Dearman

Students of all races, genders, cultures and religions tried on hijabs — traditional headscarves worn by Muslim women — for an event the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) held Monday to celebrate World Hijab Day.

World Hijab Day was on Sunday, but the MSA delayed its event to better engage the UT community in raising awareness about Muslim customs. MSA students were available to provide information about Islamic culture and set up a table filled with a row of hijabs for students to try on.

“There are so many people on campus who wear one, and I think it’s really important to see who these people are, why they wear it, why it empowers them and what it means to them,” said Maryam Siddiqui, MSA outreach director and Middle Eastern studies and Arabic junior.

It is a common misconception that women are told they have to wear hijab, according to Siddiqui, who said she wears hijab to express her religion and finds the garment empowering.

“I wear hijab because it was solely my decision,” Siddiqui said. “No one asked me to wear it. The hijab is a way for me to get closer to God.”

Wearing hijab creates a community among other Muslim women, said Rawand Abdelghani, MSA president and psychology junior, who has worn hijab daily for almost a year.

“It’s been a really good experience,” Abdelghani said. “Walking around campus, if you see someone else wearing hijab, even if you don’t know them, there’s a little bond in a way. You say hi or you say salaam.” 

While Muslim men do not wear the garment, Usama Malik, MSA vice president and governor senior, said they are expected to be equally modest. Malik said the hijab is more than a headscarf. It also represents respectful interactions between genders. MSA will host an event Friday discussing this in depth called “How men wear the hijab.”

“We don’t have any garment that we put on, but we observe other practices such as respecting women — we avert our gaze,” Malik said.

Undeclared sophomore Charlotte Friend said she was interested in trying one on herself at UT’s World Hijab Day after seeing a video of women trying on hijabs in New York.

“It was really interesting, [but] nothing like wearing it all day,” Friend said. “I felt more connected with the girls who were wearing hijabs, obviously for religious reasons. I just felt like I could respect their culture more because I knew more about it and could experience it firsthand.”

People experience prejudice worldwide for wearing a hijab, according to Siddiqui, but she said she hasn’t faced much prejudice while wearing her hijab on campus. Siddiqui said she believes it is important to educate people about what it means to wear a hijab and about Islam as a whole to avoid conflicts, such as those that happened at Texas Muslim Capitol Day last week, when state Rep. Molly White asked Muslims to publicly pledge allegiance to American law. 

“I think what happened at the Capitol was a really great thing because no one really knew that Muslim Capitol Day was that day until a bunch of these protesters came out,” Siddiqui said. “It created a dialogue, which I think is so important.”

Events such as these are a small way to educate  people about Islam and hopefully prevent protests at events, such as Texas Muslim Capitol Day in the future, Abdelghani said.

“We may not get all of UT to come out, but I think the people we do get to stop at the table — that’s one more person who knows, so that person can educate someone else,” Abdelghani said. “It’s kind of like a domino effect.”