Students gathered at UCLA to recognize Hijab Solidarity Day on Monday, the same day that hundreds marched in support of University of California service workers, members of AFSCME 3299, to demand a fair contract.
While strikers marched and chanted in and around the campus, a smaller but just as passionate group of about 20 women stood in Bruin Plaza, handing out pins that read, “Solidarity with my sisters in hijab,” and answering any questions passersby had about the traditional headscarf.
Any female who wanted to participate received a free hijab and an information card that read, “Why am I wearing this today? To show solidarity with Muslim women who choose to wear hijab and who are possible targets of harassment and misunderstanding. Having students and faculty wear a headscarf for the day and engage in dialogue that promotes solidarity and awareness of Muslim women on campus.”
Organizer Marya Ayloush said that Hijab Solidarity Day is the first of five daily national events for Islam Awareness Week, aimed at educating non-Muslims and eradicating misconceptions through classes and talks. Tuesday is “Islam in the Golden Age,” Wednesday is “Who was Prophet Muhammad?” Thursday is “Black Muslim Achievements” and Friday is “Join Us for Jumu’ah Prayer.”
“Muslim women in hijab are vulnerable and an open target for hate,” Ayloush said. “That’s why we’re here. We want to have informed discussions. It’s very important to tell people that wearing a hijab if you’re a non-Muslim is not cultural appropriation. The hijab is not exclusive to Islam.”
Events like this are more important than ever, as there has been an increase in harassment of Muslims, and especially Muslim women, since President Trump took office, Ayloush said.
Wearing the hijab is a chosen act of worship that represents physical and behavioral modesty as well as a portrayal of identity. As Faatimah Mahadi, a student taking part in Monday's event, put it, it’s an opportunity to represent, to showcase, her religion.
Ayloush said that, far from feeling oppressed while wearing the garment, she has felt more oppressed by Western men telling her that she needs to remove it, and to show her body.
“Different countries have different doctrines that have more to do with politics than religion,” she said. “If you look at the country with the most Muslims, Indonesia, women are politicians there, they’re driving, and they’re dressing as they wish. Yes, some Muslim countries are run by oppressive dictators. A woman should be free to wear what she wishes.”
On Monday, fellow students were supportive, and many were curious, Ayloush said.
Mahadi said she was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss her religion with people who might not ordinarily pay attention. “I’m not doing this for myself,” she said. “I want to show people that we’re regular people.”