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Columnist challenges women to wear hijab for a day

By: Shirien Elmasraya

Posted: 4/4/08

Ever wonder what it's like for women that wear hijab - or the head scarf? I certainly get some crazy questions sometimes.

"Do you take a shower with that on?" is pretty common.

And so is, "Do you wear that because you're bald?"
That one's my favorite.

I certainly don't mind the questions, and I am happy to answer them whenever I get them. But, now it's your turn. I challenge the women on this campus to walk a day in my shoes.

I challenge women to wear hijab for a whole day on April 25, 2008 and then talk about the experience afterward.

Whether you think Muslim women are oppressed or whether you respect the hijab, you all have something to gain from the experience.

I have to admit, the idea wasn't really my own. Montclair State University's Muslim Students Association recently sponsored the same type of event.

The idea was to get girls to wear hijab, show them how to wear it for a day and at the end of the day, come together and discuss their experiences.

Muslim women wear the hijab because it is a commandment of Allah, or God, in the Quran. And since Muslims believe the purpose of life is to worship the creator alone, they must follow all the commandments in the Quran, and who better to tell a person what's good or bad for them than the one who created them?

The hijab also protects women.

"I remember one girl who was enthralled by the entire experience and saw it more as something that strengthened the bond between women more so than for religion itself. I just thought that was a really interesting observation on her part," said MSU English student Hafsa Khan.

So here are the rules of the game, so to speak:

1. Women must wear the hijab in front of all men not related to them. The only men that women are allowed to uncover in front of are their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, sons, nephews and husbands. Sorry girls, boyfriends don't count.

2. A woman may remove her hijab in front of other women, provided there are no unrelated men around.

3. Hijab includes not only covering the hair, but wearing long, loose-fitting clothes that cover the entire body except for the hands and face.

4. If people ask you why you are wearing it, tell them the reason why Muslim women wear the hijab.

5. For those interested, come to the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge on East Airport Drive that Friday evening, and we can have a discussion about it.

I would love everyone to learn from this experience. For those of you who claim Muslim women are oppressed, perhaps this is your chance to understand why we love wearing the hijab.

I went through the drive-through at Taco Bell a couple of weeks ago. The man at the register looked like he wanted to ask me something but didn't know how to ask it. So me, being a little creeped out by this time, asked him, "Umm, what?"

He then asked me if I were Catholic. My first reaction was thinking that this wasn't the first time I was mistaken for a nun. However, my second reaction was sadness in seeing people don't realize the double standard they hold toward Muslim women.

So I told him I was Muslim - pronounced the correct way with an "s" not a "z." He seemed confused, so I figured I'd save him the trouble and pronounce it the wrong but popular way, "I'm a Muzzzlim."

He then understood.

I think it'll be a fun experience - I really love some of the situations that arise from wearing hijab. Sure you'll get some looks here and there, but that's the beauty of it.

Who cares what society thinks about you if you are doing it for a greater purpose?

This is something extremely rewarding, and I would love for others to be enlightened by the experience.

If you want to take up my challenge and want to let me know you're doing it, send me an e-mail. Also, if you would like to join in the discussion afterward, let me know. I'll be there.
Contact Shirien Elmasraya at

Copyright 2008 Daily Reveille


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