#WorldHijabDay: What happens when two hijabi girls enter a room and sit down for a chat

Two Muslim girls on the stereotyping of Hijabi women

On February 1, close to 200 countries celebrated the World Hijab Day with hashtags like #StrongInHijab trending all over social media platforms. And while the day is mostly about conveying the Hijab as a symbol of choice rather than religious orthodoxy, many non-Muslims decided to don the Hijab (head-scarf) to support the cause. Women who do not practice Islam, including the ones who are Muslims and do not wear Hijab, covered their heads and posted pictures on social media. Each of these social media posts was aimed to show solidarity with their Muslim sisters who routinely face discrimination or are stereotyped for wearing Hijab.

The face behind this movement is a 35-year old activist of Bangladeshi origin, Nazma Khan. Growing up in New York,  she faced discrimination, she launched the World Hijab day in 2013 where she called upon the rest of the womankind to try the hijab for a day – a feminist counter to increasing Islamophia world over.

Amidst all the incessant hashtagging and FOMO for not participating enough in the movement, InUth spoke to two Indian Hijabi women on the stereotypes they face and break. Zarafshan Shiraz (Business Reporter, 24) an Arifa Samreen (Student, 23) weren’t entirely impressed by the #StrongInHijab trend. For many Indian Muslim women choose to cover their head with full agency. For them, it is not just a representation of their religious beliefs but also an extension of their identity. But what most people fail to comprehend is that Hijab is a choice and rarely an imposition anymore in our country.

Zarafshan’s own family wasn’t entirely supportive of her accepting the Hijab in her life a year back, her mother and sister even placed bets to see how long she would last. Her college friends would make jokes about how they had seen young Muslim girls pick this up like a fad and then discard the Hijab like a forgotten hashtag.

Arifa was a little luckier at home, but not so much on the school front as her classmates routinely joked about her “now bald head.” Ganji ho gayi kya? (Have you gone bald?) Why are you wearing this? Do you shampoo your hair with the Hijab? Do you have a special shampoo for it?

“Someone told my friend in college, ‘You won’t be able to become an IAS with that thing on, they will think you are a terrorist.’ I was shocked to see a Muslim teacher discriminating and demotivating her student,” says Arifa who has faced the judgment of her relatives and discrimination within her own community. “They would check us extra at malls and other public places. I made my peace with this a long time ago, knowing that the discrimination would become a routine.”

The World Hijab Day may have started as a support movement, but it still fails to solve the fact that the Hijabi girls still face the music all on their own, days, months and years after the Hijab Day is over.