NEW JERSEY – A hijabi senior Muslim student at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, has been crowned Ms. Rutgers in 2015, inspiring Muslim students who don the Islamic veil to prove themselves.
“I began thinking to myself, ‘What does this mean?’” Halima Mahmoud, a black Muslim woman who dons the hijab, told Muslim Girl.
“I thought to myself, ‘A Muslim woman won homecoming; a black Muslim woman won homecoming.’”
Donning her hijab and a long-sleeved white dress, the 22-year-old senior student won the title after competing with four other women.
Being of a Ghanaian and Togolese background, Mahmoud is the first hijab-wearing woman to win the Ms. Rutgers pageant in Rutgers’ recent history, according to Tricia Defreitas, President of Program Board.
As Ms. Rutgers, she is expected to attend several Rutgers events and games, representing the Rutgers student body.
“Mahmoud’s victory sent out a very positive message to the student body,” Defreitas said.
“It testifies to the diversity of our campus and sends a very encouraging message.”
The Muslim student has been long recognized among her peers as an outspoken social activist who engages in religious activities.
“I wasn’t always confident in myself, but I built up my confidence during my time at Rutgers,” Mahmoud said.
“I’m also starting to learn my limits and I’m pushing myself beyond them, so when I heard about the call for pageants, I told myself, ‘Why not, Halima?’”
“I did this for myself,” Mahmoud said. “But I also did this, first and foremost, for my Muslim sisters. We tend to confine ourselves to certain circles or activities because society has convinced us that we aren’t worth particular things or that we don’t belong.”
Being a black and hijabi Muslim woman did not prevent the young girl from engaging in several social movements, such as the Black Lives Matter movement.
She also emphasized that black women and hijabi women should not feel that they cannot reach the platform they aim for because of their skin color or their hijab.
“I won’t say that anything is possible,” Mahmoud said.
“Unfortunately, a lot of social structures make some things impossible for us, but be determined and be persistent. Be yourself and don’t give up your identity or your persona. We can change the narrative surrounding Muslim women together. Spread your wings. Try different things.”
Winning the title, Mahmoud defied three universal beauty standards that celebrate the fair-skinned, slim, and silky-haired woman.
“I’m making a statement,” Mahmoud said.
“Whatever any woman can do, black women and Muslim women can do it better. Despite all the rocks on my road, still, I rise.”
Another American Muslim girl made history in June 2015 after she was named best-dressed female senior student at Clifton High School, New Jersey.
Earlier in May, 2015, a California Muslim student was praised for making a simple and hilarious high school yearbook quote that sheds light on her Islamic hijab in a creative way.
The 17-year-old Muslim student mixed humor, religion and culture in a quote that was attached to her yearbook picture.
“Only reason I wear this is to give you females a chance,” the Summit High School senior wrote.
Tweeted under the nickname Fefe, the unique quote has been retweeted more than 20,000 times.