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'Hijab Challenge' successful, enlightening

By: Shirien Elmasraya

Posted: 5/2/08

It has been a good one and a half years writing for The Daily Reveille. Not many people can say they have been given the opportunity to change society, even on a micro level.

I cannot only say I've been given the opportunity, but I can truthfully attest to achieving that goal - by Allah's will.

And what better way to end this chapter of my life than to speak about the event that summed up my whole career as an Islamic columnist - "The Hijab Challenge."

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column challenging University women to wear the hijab - or headscarf - for a day.

A handful of girls took on my challenge this past Friday. They came to campus adorned by the beauty of the hijab.

They went to class, hung out with their friends and lived their daily routine wearing something they normally wouldn't wear.

But anyone who didn't know them personally would most likely assume these women were Muslim, and they were most likely oppressed.

In the past year and a half I've written, I've probably gotten more hate mail and hate comments below my articles online than just about anyone else on The Daily Reveille's staff.

Some of those who would comment would regurgitate over and over again that women in Islam are oppressed, we are backwards and we need to be liberated from our hijab.

I, in turn, wanted to liberate the people who hold these views from the oppression of media brainwashing and prejudice by challenging them to wear hijab for a day and see what it is really like - the result?

None of those who accused me of being oppressed took on my challenge. They are so afraid of reality and so embarrassed to be proven wrong that they did not even bother defending their claim by agreeing to participate.

So let it be known that your words never did and never will hold any weight with me.

Half of my life, I didn't wear hijab. I was oppressed by society and beauty magazines who told me and my peers that less clothes means more beauty.

To me, the hijab is liberating.

One of the women who decided to take on my challenge was Melissa Breen, mass communication sophomore.

"In order for people to truly be open-minded, they must be willing to step outside of their comfort zones," Breen said.

Breen's friend Sarah Berard, English junior, also decided to participate.

"In order to truly love and respect other people, you have to try to understand them. So as a Roman Catholic, for me, the hijab challenge was an opportunity to come to a better understanding of Muslim women," Berard said.

Michelle Richardson, anthropology junior, said it was a special cultural experience.

"It helped demonstrate to the world and to myself that you are not any less of a free, powerful woman for making the personal choice of wearing the hijab," she said.

The women I met that took the challenge are some of the sweetest I have met at so far at the University.

And there was definitely a glow that emanated from their faces when they wore the hijab.

"I got asked a lot of questions about the hijab from people in my classes and from those who knew me. They showed genuine interest. I even had a stranger come up to me and tell me like I looked 'really good in hijab' when eating lunch," Richardson said.

So how does this all sum up my career?

For one - my message has been and will be to see Islam for what it really is, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.

If these girls can pick up a hijab and see what it's like for a day, then I challenge the rest of you to pick up a Quran and see what the religion really teaches.

I'm sure that just as the hijab was enlightening to these girls, the Quran will also enlighten you to a more accurate perception of what Islam really teaches.

Lastly, I'd like to thank Allah first and then The Daily Reveille for giving me the opportunity to write.

And I truly felt that just as Christians are free to verbalize their belief in Jesus as Lord, I too was able to freely verbalize my belief in the oneness of Allah, or God, and that no one deserves to be worshiped but Him.

And all praise is to Allah.
Contact Shirien Elmasraya at 

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