World Hijab Day Spreads Awareness: It's A Women's Choice, Local Organizers Say

Ariel Parrella-Aureli
February 02, 2019 - 1:29 pm

OAK BROOK TERRACE (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The National Muslim Organization Gain Peace was part of the local organization to honor World Hijab Day, which was Feb. 1. Started in 2013, the day is meant to recognize millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty, according to the WHB website.

Locally, activists spoke up about why women who wear hijabs should be welcomed and not discriminated against. A local organizer said it is about spreading awareness and acceptance of women who want to display their faith with hijabs, which have come under fire with Islamophobia and terrorist attacks all over the world. 

Misconceptions about women who wear hijabs also has to stop, said Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, director of the Gain Peace Project. He said people mistakenly think hijabs equal oppression.

"It's a sign of (women) are not equal to men," is not accurate, Ahmed said and added that these stereotypes need to change.

Other local organizers say wearing a hijab is a choice that should not determine women's abilities, personalities or ostracise them from society in any way. People need to be more open to religious freedom, supporters say. However, recently more Mulsim women have stopped wearing their hijabs because they have gotten bullied, discriminated against or feel unsafe to wear them in public.

According to a recent online survey from WHD, 71 percent of women in hijabs face discrimination. This was based on an online survey the organization conducted with their viewes on Facebook and Instagram. Their social media reach is big: 40,000 followers on Instagram and 790,000 followers on Facebook fan. The top five countries of WHD's Instagram followers are from Pakistan, Malaysia, India, Nigeria, and Indonesia. The top five cities on Facebook have people living in Karachi, Lahore, Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka, and Cairo.

A high number of women said they feel comfortable and condifent wearing their hijab and that their husbands or brother do not force them to wear their head scarves — another misconception of women who wear hijabs. See highlights of the survey below:

Women from all over the world held rallies to show solidarity for women wearing hijabs; women expressed their support in Nigeria, the U.K, New York City, Chicago, Canada, Bosnia, Norway and more. Women held signs reading "#FreeInHijab WHD 2019" that became trending hashtags yesterday and continue on social media today.

Teresa May also answered a constituent's question about recognizing women wearing hijabs and their acceptance in the U.K.

"I believe that what a women wears is a women's choice," May, the Prime Minister, said.

She added that she welcomes refugees to the country and wants women to feel safe. May has had a troubling past with the British and has changed her stance on refugees entering the country. However, a new treaty announced Jan. 18 noted May will be expected to announce that the country will accept more child refugees stranded in Calais, France. Still, former Labour MP David Miliband, who is now the CEO od ther International Rescue Committee, claimed Britain is not taking in enough refugees, according to a report published by the United Nations stipulating the number of refugees the western world should take in. He told British radio station LBC that May is offering even less of a "humanitarian solution" than David Cameron's Government and that the country should accept more refugees to help other EU countries carry the burden.

Standing up for women rights and even more so refugee rights is a big cultural issue hitting several countries these days, and World Hijab Day promotes a deeper understanding of women still fighting for accurate representation and rights. You can see more of the celebrations on World Hijab Day's Twitter account.