HONORING THE HIJAB. Jenin Salus laughs before taking photos
of friends during an event celebrating "World Hijab Day" at the
Aloft hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The evening was hosted
by the Council on American Islamic Relations - Oklahoma (CAIR-OK)
chapter. (Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman via AP)
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #05 (March 4, 2019),
pages 7 &11.
Metro-area women unite to commemorate "World
By Carla Hinton
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) ó A few sparkled with metallic accents.
The traditional head scarves worn by Muslim women took center
stage at several events observing "World Hijab Day" recently in
the metro area. Women gathered at the Aloft Hotel for a "World
Hijab Day" dinner and program hosted by the Council on American
Islamic Relations - Oklahoma (CAIR-OK) chapter. The special day
also was celebrated at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO),
where members of the Muslim Student Association set up a "World
Hijab Day" booth.
Natasha Saya, CAIR-OKís community outreach coordinator, said
she created the special dinner because she organized "World
Hijab Day" activities as a student at the University of
Oklahoma. This year, she wanted to observe the day in another
"I thought it would be really important to support Muslim
women because Muslim women, they wear their religion on their
sleeve," told The Oklahoman. "They face discrimination
that men donít because they wear that scarf."
Veronica Soltani, wife of Adam Soltani, CAIR-OKís executive
director, said nearly 30 percent of anti-Muslim bias incidents
in Oklahoma were triggered by a hijab, according to
statistics compiled by CAIR-OK.
Saya said another reason for the celebration was to bring
Muslim women together with women of other faiths to support one
another. About 140 women attended CAIR-OKís event. The gathering
drew mostly Muslim women, but there were numerous women of other
faiths in the crowd.
Mauree Turner of Oklahoma City said she considered her turban
a type of hijab because hijab in Arabic means covering. She said
it helps to symbolize her Muslim faith. She was excited to take
part in the celebration because it was important for women to
get together in "community," she said.
"I think events like this are very important because we can
encourage each other," Turner said. "For Muslim women, you get
to be in a room with people who look like you, and for those who
are not Muslim, they get to learn how to be an ally."
Janie Kirt Morris, a Christian who attends an Episcopal
church, sat at Khanís table. She said she was enjoying the
celebration of women in the community.
"The whole idea of empowering women is terrific. Itís
important to encourage each other," Morris said.
The eventís keynote speaker, Melanie Elturk, said that is
what she planned to do ó support and encourage the crowd. As
founder and chief executive officer of New York-based Haute
Hijab, Elturk said she wanted to talk more about what the hijab
represents ó faith ó more than the head covering itself.
"When we wear this hijab day in and day out, we have to know
who we are and to be ready to answer and be recognized as women
of faith," she said.
She said in society, the No 1. reason people cite for wearing
the hijab is for modesty. But she said the foundation behind the
hijab is that it shows that the wearer is a proud member of the
Islamic faith community.
The Muslim Student Association members at UCO moved forward
with another goal of World Hijab Day: discussing stereotypes and
myths about the hijab and educating non-Muslims about them.
The groupís booth set up outside the Nigh Center food court
recently seemed to focus on the dayís motto: "Breaking
Stereotypes. Shattering Boundaries."
The associationís president, Ashley Salim, said the students
specifically wanted to raise awareness about what the hijab is
and why Muslim women wear it. The UCO senior said she does not
wear the traditional head scarf but supports women who do.
Another member who wears a hijab, junior Oswah Cheema, said she
wanted to assist at the booth to help dispel negative
misconceptions about the hijab.
Cheema said she lived in Pakistan before moving to Edmond and
began wearing the hijab about four years ago. She is used to
people asking her questions about the head covering. Some have
said they believed the hijab was a sign of oppression, but "the
hijab is a sign of freedom for me," she said.
"When I came here, it was a sign of my identity. My family
didnít force it on me," Cheema said.
Students walking by the booth were offered refreshments and
given an opportunity to try on a hijab or answer a question
about the hijab to be entered into a drawing for a gift card.
Freshman Trinity Johnson decided to try on a hijab with Salimís
help. She said she grew up in a Christian household, considers
herself spiritual, and saw no reason not to try on the head
scarf and learn more about why Muslim women wear them.
Meanwhile, other students tried to answer questions to test
their knowledge about the hijab.
"In Islam, are women forced to wear the hijab?"
The non-Muslin student who got that question said it was
true, but Cheema and Salim told her it was false because Muslim
women are not required to wear the hijab.
Another question was, "Is the hijab only for Muslim women?"
Salim said women of other faiths, including Jews and
Christians, have worn similar head coverings over the years.
Sophomore Fnu Shahzaib was another member of the Muslim
Student Association who helped at the booth.
He said he liked the idea of educating other students about
aspects of the Islamic faith.
"I think we should be doing this more because the perspective
that a lot of people have is negative," Shahzaib said. "This is
about explaining our culture."