World Hijab Day happens every year on 1st February.
It’s brilliant that when you look on their website you can find images of Scottish politicians supporting this initiative. Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, MP for Ochil and South Perthshire says ‘Given the current climate, World Hijab Day is of even greater importance. We must stand up and clearly say that women have a right to choose what they want to wear – whenever, wherever and however. World Hijab Day is an event that we should be proud of celebrating, not just for religious tolerance but for women’s rights around the world.’
Hijab simply refers to a barrier, or to modesty and everyone’s personal interpretation of that is different. Modesty for men is also something that is discussed within Islam. Different cultures have different interpretations of veils, and they can also vary as fashions change.
As a VAW development officer at Amina, I use this image in my training.
We discuss that while some people understand that for many women, hijab is a personal choice, and an expression of their faith, some Muslim women have experienced pressure to remove their hijab, or have been looked on as more oppressed because they wear it.
There are situations where women feel pressure to wear hijab, either from government or from family, but it’s important for external parties to be sensitive to these women’s struggles fighting for freedom of choice, and to listen to their points of view.
This is an example of a group fighting against compulsory hijab in Iran.
People in all societies often judge women for their clothing choices and blame them if they suffer crimes while wearing particular things.
I believe that as an organisation working to empower women, Amina MWRC should take a stand against that.
World Hijab Day can be an occasion where those of us who don’t were hijab daily can try it on to see what it’s like. It’s a chance for women who wear hijab to share their skills as well as discuss their experiences.
Today, I also wanted to share my experience of a hate crime that happened to me while I was wearing hijab.
I think it’s important to remember that Muslim women are targeted day-in and day-out, and that I only experience a snapshot, tempered by the privilege of my being white. I believe what Muslim women tell me about being targeted for hate crime due to their faith and their race. However, World Hijab Day seems like a good day to tell my story.
I had been at the mosque to organise a men’s event for Amina. As I was in the mosque, I was wearing a headscarf. On my way home, I walked to my office, put my training materials away and went to my bus stop. I’ve included a photo here so you can see how wide the pavement is. A man came up behind me (of course, from behind he couldn’t see what race I am – only that I was wearing hijab) and barrelled into me.
He stormed off before I could get much of a look at him, and I was so shocked it had happened. I remember someone asking if he could have done it by accident, but there’s no way it wasn’t deliberate, as the pavement was so wide and nobody else was there, to get in his way.
Amina MWRC is a third party reporting centre for hate crime, so I knew how reporting worked. I felt I had been targeted because he had thought I was a Muslim woman. I’ve stood at that bus stop many times before and since, without hijab, and the same thing has never happened to me.
I reported it anonymously so that the police could add it to their picture of what’s happening here in Dundee to women who wear hijab. I really recommend reporting your experiences of hate crime, if you’re targeted because of your religion or your race, transgender identity, sexual orientation or disability. Even if you want to stay anonymous, it still lets people know what’s going on, and allows authorities to dedicate funding to fight it.