My hands were trembling. Nearly a month of planning and over $200 spent, this event HAD to be successful. My Muslim Student Association’s members and I worked tirelessly trying to figure out how we were supposed to get enough hijabs and kufis, what would happen if we had any haters, and arguing with school administrators to let us perform the event no matter what the circumstances were. These thoughts kept on shooting through my mind as I walked through the colossal gates of my school, carrying a box with 200 hijabs and kufis.
As many people reading this article may know, there’s a lot of islamophobia in the world. Everyday on the headlines there’s some news of ISIS attacks, islamophobic rhetoric, and more. The fact that 2016 is also an election year in the United States doesn’t help either, as policy towards Muslims becomes the most heavily debated topic, causing both liberals and conservatives to become more polarized in their beliefs. As Election Tuesday came closer and closer, I felt the islamophobic rhetoric and anti-Muslim jokes spike at my school. It came to the point where some Muslim girls were taking off their hijabs and boys not wanting to be identified as Muslims. This was absolutely shocking to me. I was so confused. I wanted to know to stop this from happening.
*Facebook notification (1)*
“Someone has invited you to the Muslim Student Union – University of California, Irvine’s Hijab Day Challenge”
And all of a sudden, everything just made sense. Let everyone feel how it is to be a Muslim, and then people will have a better understanding of what it’s like to be identifiable as one.
On March 31, 2016, we did exactly that. Westview High School Muslim Student Association’s Executive Board walked in the school at 7:45 a.m., given the blank canvas of our quad, and quickly beautified it with our trifold board and numerous varieties of hijabs and kufis. We took a look at our humble set-up and set off for our classes with the plan of coming back for a tutorial period and lunch. At 9:26, classes let out for tutorial, and within seconds, a huge crowd with hundreds of students had formed around our booth. A crowd had formed around me as I explained why Muslims wear hijabs and kufis, while lines full of students formed waiting for a Muslim girl to tie a hijab on them. All of a sudden, school newspaper interviewers came by to report the event, and later I was getting texts from local FOX News reporters asking for clearance inside the school! I’m going to be honest, it was one of the most hectic situations I’ve ever been in, but it was so worth it. People were taking selfies and encouraging their friends to join, and by the end of lunchtime, nearly every student was wearing a hijab or kufi.
A 10th grade student at our school had this feedback to offer: “It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. I was worried over what other people would think, but then I realized that that’s how tons of Muslims feel every single day, especially with the recent rise in islamophobia. It’s one thing to talk about discrimination, but actually experiencing the life of a Muslim, even for a day, made it so much more real.” Facebook messages poured into my inbox from all types of students expressing their gratitude and appreciation for this event, which honestly made the whole event worth it.
In the end, with the blessings of Allah the event turned out to be a success because our Muslim Student Association had the right intentions and collaborated effectively towards the same collective goal, to allow students to obtain a better understanding and appreciation for Islam and to rid the evils of islamophobia from our campus. But our work as Muslims doesn’t stop here. We need to come together as a community to empower one another and break the silence on islamophobia in order to show the rest of society who we really are and what we really stand for.