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Indiana Students Plan the “Hijab Challenge”

INDIANA – Students of Indiana State University will participate in a social experiment on February 1 called the “Hijab Challenge” to celebrate World Hijab Day.

“I began the Hijab challenge because a few years ago I had a friend in Washington State, and she tried the full body covering including her face,” Alyaa Malibari, a Graduate Assistant of the International Student Resource Center, and the researcher who created this challenge told Indiana Statesman Newspaper.

“She did the same things, like riding the same bus to the same grocery store without telling anyone who she was. She reported about her experience and the challenges she had that day and about the people’s perception.

“The idea was that she was the same person, she didn’t act differently, but everyone else changed the way that they were dealing with her. She felt very sad.

“Since I am used to wearing the Hijab, I was used to the way people would look at me so I didn’t feel the difference, but she felt the difference, because she tried with and without the head covering,” Malibari continued.

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She says she created the challenge to eliminate Muslim stereotypes and to bring knowledge to students about the Hijab and what it represents.

One misconception she hopes to fix is the idea that hijab is unique to the Muslim faith.

“It’s in many cultures and different religions all over the world. We have this whole concept of the head covering as a way of style and a way of culture. I want people to know that is not just for Islam only, and even if it were is it not a reason to treat people differently, because you look different.”

Malibari’s experiment can be conducted with a minimum of four participants, but over 20 students have asked to be a part of this study.

“I think in the long run, it will open people’s eyes to tradition and culture and open them up to different experiences,” expressed Clara Martin, an ISU graduate student.


Malibari will provide the participant students with a hijab and ask them to wear it at the gym, class, and anywhere where they can interact with other people and record how others react to them.

“When I meet other people who try this, they will feel how others feel sometimes and at the same time, they can experience both sides of wearing a hijab and not wearing a hijab, especially in the ISU community,” Malibari stated.

The experiment seeks to understand how students react to people wearing hijab. Even some students are excited to see the outcome of this experiment.

“I think if it’s just someone wearing a hijab without saying what it means to them and why they are doing it, the amount of change will be limited,” said Malibari. “It’s a step in the right direction, but I think there needs to be more to it.”

In order to hinder any sort of bias, Martin believes that the participants “must also educate themselves and use the education that they learn and share it with others.”

Malibari hopes the event will help to end the stigma around Muslim culture and create a more diverse and inclusive campus.

“So many people used to tell me that I am dumb or stupid, so I used to tell them I am covering my head, but not my brain,” Malibari said.