CAIRO – Free hijab, henna painting and Arabic writings have offered students in the University of Michigan a special experience to stand in the shoes of their Muslim colleagues, breaking barriers made by politics.
“There’s a lot of pretty awful stigmas and stereotypes against Muslims and especially Muslim women because they wear head coverings, so I’m happy to see events like these because maybe that’ll help break some of those,” participant and sophomore linguistics major Amy Buchheit told The DM Online.
The event was held on Tuesday, April 19, by the Muslim Student Association in UM.
Passersby stopped between classes to try hijab for the first time, get free henna paintings and Arabic writing demonstrations and photobooth-style pictures.
Buchheit said she was curious about trying on a hijab.
“Even though I’m from a small town in Iowa, there are also quite a few Muslim women there, so I have wondered before what that’s like,” Buchheit said.
“I’m not religious whatsoever, so just to have that dedication to not only wearing it, but sending that message to other people, I think that’s pretty cool. That’s pretty solid faith.”
Hunain Alkhateb, UM MSA faculty advisor, said hijab was helping her to put boundaries.
“When I deal with my students and my colleagues, they’ll say ‘Okay, can I hug you?’” Alkhateb said.
“They would ask, but typically with other people, if they got excited, they would probably just jump and hug you. I like setting these boundaries, it helps me keep my religious practices and culture.”
Tassniem Rashed is another graduate student who chose to don niqab, or full-face hijab.
“The way that I cover pretty much almost everything, it’s the way that I feel empowered that I would decide who would get to see my physical appearance,” Rashed said.
“I would like people to judge me for my intellect and the way I interact with them, not the way that I look, although I really like the way that I look. I want people to look through or beyond the beauty or the physical appearance.”
Adham Hagag, president of UM MSA, praised OpenMISS, a student-led project to highlight local Muslim communities, for cooperating to achieve success in the event.
“We are targeting the same audience over here, so it makes it much easier that we can always work on the same tasks together,” Hagag said.
Alexandra Gersdorf, a project member of OpenMISS, donned a hijab the next day, saying it adds to the cultural diversity in campus.
“This is cultural diversity, so I think it’s important to participate in it and not just talk about it,” Gersdorf said.