Minnesota : Nade Conrad, who is not Muslim, had donned the scarf to show support for a Muslim friend at Normandale Community College in Bloomington. Such acts of “hijab solidarity” are on the rise, Minneapolis Star Tribune online news reported.
World Hijab Day (WHD), a global event inviting people of all faiths to post pictures of themselves in a hijab on social media, is gathering steam. It was at a World Hijab Day event at Normandale one of several such events held at Minnesota colleges in early February that Conrad first tried on a hijab.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has worn a headscarf when meeting with leaders of the city’s Somali-American community. And a professor at a Christian college in Illinois just resigned after a backlash over her choice to wear the scarf.
The movement is turning heads at a time when many Muslims in Minnesota and elsewhere feel under siege.
Heightened fears about terrorism have created a climate of fear and anxiety among American Muslims, who say anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise following terrorist attacks in Paris and California. Women who wear the headscarves are especially vulnerable because the head covering clearly identifies them as Muslim.
But hijab solidarity is drawing plenty of critics, too. Some Muslims say it amounts to “hijab tourism” and doesn’t offer an authentic understanding of the struggle faced by Muslim women who choose to cover their hair. Others argue that it endorses a monolithic view of a faith community whose members don’t agree that women should wear head coverings. And some Western feminists struggle with the very idea of covering up.
The Arabic word “hijab” means partition. While it’s often used to refer to the head covering, the concept of “hijab” has a broader meaning in Islam. It refers to modest dress and behavior, applying to both men and women.
Amina Sanchez, president of the Muslim Student Association at Normandale, is among those who welcome hijab solidarity acts.
“We want others to understand who we are and what we stand for,” she said. “Even though there are a lot of Muslims in Minnesota, there are still misconceptions about why we wear it. We’re a peaceful people and we would like to be able to walk down the street and not be afraid,” she said.