February 1st, 2013, marked the first annual World Hijab Day in recognition of millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty.
The brainchild of this movement is a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the hijab for one day.
For many people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression and segregation. By opening up new pathways to understanding, Nazma hopes to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab.
Nazma knows exactly what she’s talking about. The social activist came to this country from Bangladesh at the tender age of eleven where she found herself being the only hijabi in middle school. She remembers her experience as a difficult one.
“Growing up in the Bronx, in NYC, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab, ‘she reflects. ‘In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’. When I entered University after 9/11, I was called Osama bin laden or terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.”
The whole movement is organized using social networking sites. It has attracted the interest of many Muslims and non-Muslims in more than 140 countries worldwide. WHD literature has been translated in 56 languages. There are over 91+ appointed World Hijab Day ambassadors in over 33+ countries. This movement has been endorsed by celebrities like Mrs. Universe 2013 (Carol Lee), politicians such as Dr. Amina Namadi Sambo (Wife, Vice President(Nigeria)), and well known scholars like Mufti Ismail Menk, Dr. Yasir Qadhi, Sheikh Omar Suleiman and many more. This global movement has been covered by mainstream news media such as BBC, Al-Jazeera, Huffington Post, and many more.
Through out last year, Nazma Khan has been invited as a guest speaker at universities, high schools and religious organisations. Nazma, also had the pleasure to present the World Hijab Day to the holocaust survivors at Kupferberg Holocaust Center where she utterly felt loved and welcome.
“World Hijab Day has shown my students a most powerful lesson in accepting individual differences.” -Dr. Arthur Flug (Executive Director, Kupferberg Holocaust Center)
This year, Nazma Khan’s aim is to have 10 million participants worldwide and asking for everyone’s support.