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‘Wear a Hijab’ day provides opportunities for connection between Muslims and non-Muslims

 

University of Illinois student Abeer Misbahuddin tries on a hijab as part of the Muslim Student Association’s “Wear a Hijab” event on Oct. 10. The booth was part of the association’s annual Islam Awareness Week. Nour Longi

A Muslim student group at the Univesity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has spent the past week performing an act of outreach and education: Islam Awareness Week.

The annual event began on Oct. 10 with “Wear a Hijab” day. 

Morgan Lee, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, attended the event.

She laughed as fellow sophomore Amal Hassan wrapped a light pink scarf around her head. 

Lee, who is not Muslim, was trying on a hijab, a head covering that some Muslim wear in public.

Members of the Muslim student group set up a booth on the Main Quad, where passersby of all backgrounds could try on a hijab and learn more about its significance and of Islam in general. 

Organizers said the purpose of Islam Awareness Week was to combat common misconceptions about the hijab and Islam.

Educating others is especially important because stereotypes in the media are sometimes the only exposure people have to Islam, they said.

“Something that is targeted on us is that terrorist or terrorism stereotype,” said Sophia Jandry, the association’s head of outreach. “We have a lot of misconceptions about us in the media, so it is our duty as Muslims to clear that up for people.”

Only 1% of people in Illinois are Muslim, according to the Pew Research Center.

Members of the association said they also wanted people to understand the relationship between Muslim women and the hijab better after visiting the booth. 

Jandry, who does not wear the hijab, said she wants people to understand that Islam does not force anything on anyone. 

“Islam is about peace and submission to God, and if you do that in the way of wearing the hijab, that’s amazing, and it's a great pillar of faith to have,” Jandry said. “But, if you start in different ways or smaller steps, that is awesome, too.” 

She said she wants to wear a hijab one day.

The hijab is a personal journey for a lot of Muslim women, she said. Each woman decides if and when she feels ready to wear it. 

“You are not a lesser of a Muslim for not putting one on, and you are not a better Muslim for wearing one,” said Hassan, who wears the hijab. “It is about your intrinsic values, and if they align with the values of Islam like being compassionate, being kind, not backbiting, caring about the people around you and spreading kindness.”

The booth sold hijabs in an array of fabrics and colors. 

Other events of Islam Awareness Week included a “Talk to a Muslim” booth on the university quad, an interfaith dinner and a panel of speakers.

 

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