CAIRO – Joining millions of Muslim women worldwide, Indian women in Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow marked World Hijab Day for the first time with a special celebration on Sunday, February 1.
“I came to know about WHD through postings on social media. It is a brilliant way to spread awareness about hijab and in a broader perspective about Islam,” Ayushi Srivastava, who came to attend the hijab event in Lucknow, told the Time of India.
“It will let people know that hijab is actually the freedom of women to express themselves the way they want to, contradictory to the ignorant and stereotypical notion about it.”
Organized by a team of young Indian women, Lucknow’s event is a part of the global celebrations of the third anniversary of the World Hijab Day that will be marked in 140 countries around the world.
With dozens of handmade posters and banners decorating the streets, Muslim and non-Muslim women at the Bada Imambara will be invited to try hijab for a day.
“When somebody decides to wear minimal clothes, she is considered as modern and free but when another woman chooses to cover herself, she is deemed oppressed,” said Sarah Husain, a member of the World Hijab team in Lucknow.
“If I choose to wear the hijab out of choice, even though I know it is in my religion, I will cover my hair, not my brain and my intellect.”
Led by an Indian fashion blogger, Farsheen Naqi, 22, organizers of the event aim to raise awareness about the Islamic headscarf and dispel misconceptions surrounding it.
“I joined this campaign to dispel the judgmental nature of people in our society, to persecute prejudices we have for one another,” said 20-year old Heba Zahra.
“Everybody needs to be open about each other’s choices and opinions and more so tolerant towards all religions.”
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world’s third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
The World Hijab Day, held for the third consecutive year, is the brain child of a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding.
Suggesting the event, Khan wanted to encourage non-Muslim women to don the hijab and experience it before judging Muslim women.
She also saw the event as a best chance to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.