Nazma Khan grew up in the Bronx, New York City, where she experienced
discrimination due to her hijab.
So, in 2013, she figured the only way to end this discrimination was to ask her fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves. Impassioned by this idea, Khan used her experience to fuel the ardent idea to create World Hijab Day, celebrated on February 1 every year.
This day is part of a larger movement to foster personal freedom of religious expression and bring awareness and understanding. World Hijab Day is one of the few days of the year that recognizes the challenges people of the Muslim faith experience today and provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life to stand in solidarity with Muslim girls and women who are unfairly discriminated against.
This day, most importantly, opens the doors to those around the world and is a day to walk in the shoes of Muslim women to fabricate religious tolerance, understanding, and international solidarity. This global event opens pathways of awareness and recognition of the millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty.
What the day means
Women of the Muslim faith are discriminated against daily for simply wearing the hijab;
February 1 allows people, regardless of religion, to show support toward Muslim women and will, hopefully, encourage the continuous and active seeking of ways to combat bigotry,
discrimination, and prejudice. On February 1, 2023, women and communities in over 150 countries came together by donning the hijab and building ways in which individuals of any faith, community, or organization, can be a part of this global event.
Events on campus
This year, UNB Saint John provided a fantastic opportunity for students to take part in making the culture and religion more accessible in our community. The World Hijab Day event at UNBSJ was organized on campus. It was in collaboration with the MSA-UNBSJ (Muslim Student Association) and MANB (Muslim Association New Brunswick).
The event occurred from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Hazen Hall Lecture Theatre and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria. There were several aspects of the World Hijab Day event that provided a warm and welcoming environment. There were moments when Muslim women were spotlighted and able to speak on their Hijab journeys, including their struggles and perseverance in schools, inspiring with their determination and dedication to follow their principles of faith.
A homey environment aimed at welcoming everyone, providing opportunities for women and men, of non-Muslim faith to ask questions and try on hijabs. The excitement in the many children present was palpable, and the event was filled with the joy of students, parents, and kids everywhere.
The event radiated love and kindness as kids ran around eating, people were getting henna tattoos, and laughter and conversations filled the room. All women were welcome to try on hijabs, and stories were shared. Local businesswomen were present, such as Hebatalia Mohamed, the owner, and operator of Woman’s Zone for Clothing, Hijabs, and Accessories, who provided hijabs for this event.
Women were excited to share their culture and religion with everyone, and there were plenty of attendees from the Saint John newcomers center and many people from the community present. Everyone at the event was incredibly excited to be together and reach out to the community.
MSA’s presence on campus
The Baron spoke to the SRC International Student Representative, Faseeh Khalil, about the
event. The idea came to the MSA after a former president of the MSA came to speak with their members over the holidays. The former president shared her own experience of organizing a Hijab Day. The group started prepping for the event from then onwards with external organizations such as the MANB (Muslim Association of New Brunswick) involved, which are a prominent part of the Muslim community here in Saint John.
Khalil contacted their President and inquired about a collaboration between themselves and our UNBSJ students and community. The MANB were more than happy to integrate their efforts into the event.
The result was an outstanding event gathering students and promoting community building
within UNBSJ and greater Saint John. Khalil says this event to him was the start of a great
journey. After starting the MSA with his peers, the group shared a common aim to leave an
impact on UNBSJ and be a center for the promotion of peace and the teachings of Islam.
The international Hijab Day event, full of info booths, try-on Hijab opportunities, henna art, and Arabic calligraphy, helped to provide a foundation to do that and will continue to bring more people together and keep making efforts to create events and collaborations better than before by learning from mistakes and taking advice on how they can be better.
Given the current climate, World Hijab Day is of even greater importance. World Hijab Day is an event to be celebrated proudly for religious tolerance and women’s rights worldwide. This day brings people together to stand up and say that women have the right to choose what they want to wear. That right stands whenever, wherever and however.