The Rice Muslim Student Association and the Boniuk Council held a series of World Hijab Day events on Sunday and Monday, and encouraged female students to wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslim women who choose wear the hijab.
Organizer Iqra Dada, a Duncan College junior, said the day promoted respect and understanding.
“World Hijab Day is an amazing way to show people that we are the same as everyone else.” Dada said. “We just pray five times a day, and wear some extra cloth here and there to cover up the way we believe God wants us to.”
The organizations held an all-women’s event Sunday evening and an event open to all students on Monday evening. Participants at Sunday’s event discussed the meaning of the hijab and gave lessons on wrapping the headscarf.
“It’s not just about clothing, it’s about your personality,” Dada said. “Be modest, be humble, be a godly person.”
Ramee Saleh, a Sid Richardson College freshman, said her family is from Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country where wearing the headscarf is uncommon.
“I grew up with a teaching of Islam that basically says to dress modestly, and the [headscarf] is one way to do that but not necessary,” Saleh said.
Saleh said while discussion is necessary, she feels World Hijab Day has the wrong approach.
“Why can’t we just believe stories that hijabi women tell us?” Saleh said. “What does it say about our culture in which we only believe statements when it comes from people of privilege?”
Boniuk Council President Dan McNamara said they were aware of the surrounding controversy.
“While this of course does not substitute for the breadth or richness of the hijabi experience, nor approximate the full meaning of what it is to be a female Muslim who dons the hijab, it does create an awareness,” McNamara, a McMurtry College junior, said.
At Monday’s event, hijabi students held a discussion, where non-hijabi students reflected on their experiences on choosing whether or not to wear the scarf for the day and hijabi students discussed their daily experiences and addressed misconceptions around the hijab.
Sophie D’Amico, a Duncan College freshman and Boniuk Council member, decided to wear the scarf and attend the event to learn more.
“This seemed like the perfect opportunity to both learn about the faith as well as walk a mile in a hijabi’s shoes,” D’Amico said.
Lovett College senior Dani Maldonado said she respected others’ decisions to wear the scarf, but ultimately decided not to wear it herself.
“From what I understand about people’s decision to wear hijab, it’s in reverence to God, it’s about how you live your life,” Maldonado said. “It’s more than just wearing something, and for me it wouldn’t mean those things if I wore it.”
Brown College senior Mariam Hussain said she disagreed with the idea that wearing hijab for a day constituted cultural appropriation.
“World Hijab Day is more about solidarity,” Hussain said. “Especially in terms of heightened Islamophobia, it’s important to show solidarity with a group of people that face prejudice.”
Hijabi students in attendance countered the idea that the hijab is oppressive.
Dada said that the decision to wear hijab was a sign of power to her.
“I’m a powerful person who makes my own decisions, and I’m so powerful that I can cover myself and still feel secure,” Dada said.