Hijab Solidarity Warms Hearts in Minnesota

CAIRO – Rejecting anti-Muslim sentiments, Nade Conrad, a Minnesotan citizen, decided to don Islamic hijab for a day earlier this month, showing solidarity to Muslim women.

“I feel different,” Conrad, who is not Muslim, told Star Tribune on Monday, February 8.

Her act of “hijab solidarity”, which she attributed to solidarity with a Muslim friend at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, has repeated remarkably over the past months.

In one of those cases, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges wore a hijab when meeting with leaders of the city’s Somali-American community.

In Minnesota, community leaders from the worlds of business, politics and education took out a full-page advertisement in the Star Tribune on Feb. 1 calling on fellow Minnesotans to reject anti-Muslim bigotry.

A professor at a Christian college in Illinois has resigned two days ago after a backlash over her choice to wear the scarf.

However, the large reaction to the gesture was welcomed by many, coming in a time when Republican presidential hopefuls have been spreading anti-Muslim sentiments.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country while Ben Carson said Islamic was not a religion.

Amina Sanchez, president of the Muslim Student Association at Normandale, is among those who welcome hijab solidarity acts.

“We want others to understand who we are and what we stand for,” she said.

“Even though there are a lot of Muslims in Minnesota, there are still misconceptions about why we wear it. We’re a peaceful people and we would like to be able to walk down the street and not be afraid,” she said.

Challenging Islamophobia

The Hijab solidarity was perceived as a direct result of piling anti-Muslim sentiments.

“Any time that it is perceived that people are facing discrimination, there will be sympathetic people who will do their best to show solidarity with them,” said William O. Beeman, director of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota.

He compared the hijab solidarity movement to a young cancer patient who loses his hair after chemotherapy. His friends may shave their heads to show him that he is not alone in his fight.

“That’s a very natural human tendency,” Beeman said.

Starting a World Hijab Day event four years ago, Nazma Khan, who was called “batman” and “ninja” by classmates at her New York City high school because she wore the hijab, hopes her daughters would not face the same sentiments.

“I realized this has to be the result of ignorance,” she said. “It’s ignorance that makes us hate.”

“Inshallah (God-willing), my daughter or niece will not go through what I went through,” Khan said.

“This time is worse than 9/11. I’m more scared now than before.”