MICHIGAN – American students in Central Michigan University have donned Muslim headscarf in an event to show solidarity with Muslim students in their campus and stress the value of hijab as a Muslim choice.
“We want to stress that for Muslim women in the United States, wearing the hijab is a choice,” Amanda Jaczkowski, Hijab Week coordinator and Clinton Township junior, told CM Life website.
“It is an outward symbol of an inner commitment.”
Jaczkowski is one of the coordinators of the project called “Hijab Week: An Experiment in Cultural Immersion”.
The event has been put together by students in the department of religion and philosophy, as well as the CMU Honors Program.
Held for the second consecutive year, the event is a cultural experiment created to promote awareness about Islam.
According to Jaczkowski, the idea of the hijab event came as her sister attended a class about Islam and made plans for a project in the Honors Program.
The project was held later to help spread awareness about the perception of Muslims in the American public.
Welcoming the idea, 25 non-Muslim students participated in Hijab Week.
Along with donning hijab, students participating in the event also adopted other practices associated with Islam, such as modest dress and abstaining from alcohol.
Many of the students participating in Hijab Week are involved as part of their personal development projects for HON 100, the introductory class in the Honors Program.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Donning hijab in their campus over a whole week, many of the students said they gained a better understanding of what Muslims face every day in America.
“With all the stigma surrounding Islamic culture, it’s very different to see what it’s like from an inside perspective,” Bay City freshman Hannah Foley, one of the Honors students participating, said.
Cadillac freshman Natasha Gabara agreed and recounted incidences during the week where she could notice stares from strangers.
“It’s teaching me to empathize with women in the Muslim culture,” Gabara said.
“You get a lot of awkward staring.”
Livonia freshman Ally Hermann said that reactions of the society all through the Hijab Week were different.
“I get the door held open for me more often,” Hermann said.
“I was not expecting that at all. People stare at me more, but you also get a lot of people smiling when you look their way.”
The event was welcomed by Muslim students who saw it a positive move towards understanding the true meaning of hijab, Jaczkowski said.
“A lot of my Muslim friends have been tweeting about it,” Jaczkowski said.
“They were really excited students were doing this. Some international students have even been calling their families back home to tell them about what we’re doing.”