February 1st, 2013, marked the first annual World Hijab Day (WHD) 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.
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.”
It’s estimated that people in 190 countries take part in World Hijab Day every year. WHD has many volunteers and ambassadors worldwide to conduct WHD events in order to bring awareness about hijab. These ambassadors come from all walks of life. In addition, WHD has been endorsed by many world renowned individuals including scholars, politicians, and celebrities worldwide. WHD has been covered in mainstream news media including New York Times, BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Huffington Post, etc to name a few.
There were many milestones since the inception of World Hijab Day. One of them was the recognition of the day by New York State in 2017. The same year, the House of Commons of the U.K. hosted an event marking the day, where Prime Minister Theresa May also attended. The event was organized by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthsire. SNP MP Tasmina wrote in THE TIMES:
“Given the current climate, World Hijab Day is even greater importance. We must stand up and clearly say that women have a right to choose what they want to wear-whenever, wherever, and however. World Hijab Day is an event that we should be proud of celebrating, not just for religious tolerance but for women’s rights around the world.”