04 June 2009

Canadian College Has “Wear My Hijab Day”

From Canada’s Hamilton Spectator:

Hijab day: Mac women show support

By Jon Wells
(Apr 4, 2007)

For a small piece of cloth meant to conceal — the word comes from the Arabic “hijaba” which means to hide from view — the hijab has never been a more conspicuous or controversial symbol.

It may be more visible than ever today at McMaster University, where a professor organized a Wear My Hijab day. Women, whether Muslim or not, were invited to wear a head scarf all day to show support for those who regularly wear it…

Yasmeen Khattav, a politics student at McMaster, wears a hijab and supports the Wear My Hijab event, adding that she has never felt any pressure not to wear her head scarf on campus. She said that, while women are sometimes forced to wear coverings abroad, most do so by choice. She said that to the extent coercion occurs, it should be blamed on the culture of the offending country, not on the Islamic faith.

“The hijab is about modesty and decency … revealing one’s inner character rather than focusing on outer beauty.”

Professor Muriel Walker, who teaches French literature at Mac, organized the hijab day.

“It can be difficult for women to wear the hijab,” she said. “I want this to help sensitize people about Islam … you should not be afraid of Muslims.”

Walker, who moved from France 15 years ago, is not Muslim, but has worn a hijab on Fridays, an important day of prayer for Muslims, for about three months.

“I just wanted to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes, and show respect.”

There are an estimated 1,500 students of the Muslim faith attending McMaster. The head of the campus Muslim student association, Kareem Mirza, supports hijab day.

“It’s an amazing endeavour, it’s not every day someone from outside our organization promotes the religion in a positive way.” …

Walker believes that social expectations on women inherent in the “beauty myth” — fashion, body image — are themselves a form of coercion for women about their appearance.

“We do extreme things to look the way we are expected to look,” she explains. “In a sense, the veils we wear in the West weigh on us more than the hijab.”

On the other hand, Tracy Isaacs, a philosophy professor at the University of Western Ontario, who thinks that showing empathy for women who wear the hijab is a positive thing, wonders about the “context of choice” at play.

That is, if the beauty myth and other social conventions represent coercion against women, is covering up with a scarf or veil a legitimate choice? Muslim women are also encouraged to wear the hijab to keep males from sexually objectifying them. Is that a sound response?

Khattav said these are extremely small parts of the motivation for wearing the hijab.

“The main reason is to please your Lord.”

Maybe that’s what Nancy Pelosi was doing.

Showing support for “Wear My Hijab Day” and trying to please her lord(s).

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