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World Hijab Day celebrates and educates students about Islamic faith

by Jordan Soldaczewski - Staff Writer
Tue, Feb 7th 2017 11:00 pm
Photos By Emma Misiaszek/photo editor 
TRYING IT ON The Brockport Muslim Student Association hosted its annual World Hijab Day, where students of all kinds were encouraged to experience what it's like to wear a hijab in an attempt to spread an understanding of the Islamic faith.
Photos By Emma Misiaszek/photo editor TRYING IT ON The Brockport Muslim Student Association hosted its annual World Hijab Day, where students of all kinds were encouraged to experience what it's like to wear a hijab in an attempt to spread an understanding of the Islamic faith.

 For five years now, the Brockport Muslim Student Association has held a World Hijab Day event, encouraging everyone to try on a hijab and walk a day in a Muslim person's shoes. The organization believes this is an important event in order to correct the misconceptions of the Islamic faith and especially the misconceptions of the hijab. 

Among people participating in the event was Emily Fleming, a student who is friends with many members of BMSA. Fleming does as much as she can to educate herself on Islam; she took a class on the religion to understand what the faith practices and she encourages people to do the same.

"They're all my friends and I support them of course, and I feel like there's a huge misconception of the Islamic faith in general and I don't think people are educated on it," Fleming said. 

The president of BMSA, Mariam Kamagaté, along with club members Rukia Abdi and Halima Hussein explained why they wear the hijab and what it means to them. 

"I want people to know right off the bat that I'm Muslim," Kamagaté said. "I don't want them to get to know me and then once they find out I'm Muslim, they no longer like me just because of that one thing. So for me personally it's so I know that everybody's accepting of what I am and what I practice."

Besides being easily recognized for what she identifies as, Kamagaté said the hijab is also a way to remind her to stay strong in her faith.

"Without the hijab I don't pray as often, I'm not as religious, but with the hijab it forces me to pray, it forces me to be religious," Kamagaté said.

Kamagaté, Abdi and Hussein all agreed that the biggest misconception about the hijab is that they are forced to wear it. Abdi explains how she was raised in the religion of Islam and has heard a lot of misconceptions about what people think Islam is and what the hijab stands for.

"I know a lot of people say that 'oh you're forced to wear it and you guys are oppressed,' but honestly that's not the case," Abdi said. "It's modest, so basically it's so you're not showing your all to the public ... and it's a sense of identity too." 

When asked if she has received criticism for wearing a hijab, she said that people have made discriminatory comments to her, but she tries not to give in and ignores it.

"'[People say] oh don't you get hot [wearing] that?' Like just because we wear this, they have a negative connotation with it or [think] we're terrorists, we're labeled that way," Abdi said. "And by reacting to it, you're showing them what they want to see."

Living in a world of terrorist groups who identify as radical Islamists, people often make the mistake of linking all Muslims with terrorism. However, Islam is simply a religion which practices peace and goodwill, just as most other religions do.

"The media shows violence and Muslim terrorists ... people pay attention to just that, they tend to not look beyond what the media shows," Adbi said. "It's kind of a personal choice for you to go beyond that and learn on your own too and I just want people to know that what they see isn't always the truth, there's more to it."

Just as Abdi feels misunderstood and judged, Kamagaté made a similar statement, explaining that she grew up in a place where everyone would stare at her, and as a result has learned to block it out.

"Me personally, I don't really pay attention to when people look at me" Kamagaté said, "my friend that used to go here, everytime we would eat in the dining hall, she would always say 'oh my gosh they're looking at us' and she would be very upset, but me personally I never let that get to me, and I live in New York City, I take the train, I take the bus, so of course people are going to look at me but I just don't pay them any mind."

Beyond the stares from others, student Halima Hussein said that she faced discrimination when she went through a security scanner with her sister who has  some disabilities

"We were at the social security office and you have to go through a security scanner for security purposes and at the place the security guard goes 'take everything off, whatever you have under here,' and she was pointing to my sister's head with the scarf," Hussein said. 

Hussein said she just wants people to see that Muslims are just like any other people and that Islam is a peaceful religion, despite the presumptions people make about it. 

"I want people to know that Islam means peace, like the word literally means peace and when we say 'Assalamu 'Alaikum' it means 'May peace and blessings be upon you'," Hussein said. "So it's not all what everybody makes it out to be, the religion is not about terrorizing others and I just want you to know that we are the same, we're all from the human race so we all just have to accept each other."

All three of the BMSA members  encourage people to become involved with the club so they can see what Islam truly is through their different prayer sessions, speakers, and events. It is a space where everyone can learn from everyone, whether you are a Muslim or not. Kamagaté encourages all to come sit in on a prayer and see what Islam really is, first hand.

"We encourage people to come to our Friday prayers just to get a sense of how we pray so it's not like we're doing anything secretive or something out of this world, just come and see us and ask us questions," Kamagaté said.

BMSA has Jummah prayers every Friday in the Seymour College Union Gallery at 12 p.m. If you are interested in joining the club, its next general body meeting is Thursday, Feb. 9, at 1:45 p.m.