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Hijab Day: Building Bridges, Breaking Stereotypes

Hijab Day: Building Bridges, Breaking Stereotypes

NEW YORK – When Nazma Khan launched the first World Hijab Day in 2013, she did not expect that her call to fight negativity and discrimination against hijabi women will make this huge success.

“By walking in my shoes for one day on February 1, women would see that I am no different from them,” the president and founder of the World Hijab Day Organization told Al Jazeera.

“Perhaps, this one day experience will make them see the hijab in a different light.”

The Bangladeshi native, who immigrated to New York at the age of 11, was constantly bullied throughout middle and high school.

“Every day, I would face different challenges just walking on the street,” she said.

“I was chased, spit on, surrounded by men, called a terrorist, Osama bin Laden, etc.”

But since WHD inception in 2013, more than 70 global ambassadors from over 45 countries have been involved and women from around 190 countries participate in the annual event.

“I believe women should be free from prejudice and discrimination for their choice to cover their hair,” said Ellie Lloyd, a Christian who works as Qatar’s WHD ambassador.

“If I choose to wear a hat, I am not judged. If I choose to wear my hair up or down or braided, I am not judged.

“So why is it fair for a woman who chooses to wear a scarf to be judged?”

Despite the challenges, Khan is optimistic that social media has given Muslim women a platform to voice their discontent.

“Hijab is not just a piece of cloth I use to cover my head,” said WHD’s founder.

“It’s much more than that. Hijab represents who I am as a person.”

In the month leading up to February 1, women share their experiences of wearing the hijab on social media under the hashtag #WorldHijabDay. This year’s slogan is #StrongInHijab.

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