Feburary 1st, 2017…World Hijab Day. This was my first time wearing a hijab and it definitely opened my perspective on my Muslims brothers and sisters at Fontbonne and around the world. I have always attended Catholic schools so I wanted to expand my horizons and knowledge of other religions in my higher education experience. I feel that I knew growing up that Islam is a very peaceful and understanding religion. I just do not know a lot about the religion so this was a small step to reach better understanding.
I put on a beautiful red hijab at about 11 o’ clock at lunchtime. I think that throughout the course of my busy, schedule-filled day I ended up subconsciously forgetting that I was wearing a hijab on campus. During my quick walk across Fontbonne’s small campus, I did get some stares from people. After continuing my walk, I realized that I could never truly understand a hijabi’s woman’s experience.
As I was about to leave my afternoon class, I was asked a series of questions by a student about my hijab. The student asked me, “why are you wearing a symbol of oppression?” I think I was caught off guard a little bit, but I explained that a woman wears a hijab by her own decision and it is to allow people to appreciate her intellectuals rather than her physical beauty. The student was not very open or receptive to me and they walked away in a huff.
This goes to show that we, as Fontbonne students, faculty, and staff, have much to do to promote inclusivity and diversity on campus. It is very important to ask questions if you want to further your knowledge of someone’s culture. Also, it is equally important to be receptive to hearing someone’s answer. To the student who was not receptive, please seek understanding. We cannot be a true “Fontbonne family,” if not everyone values inclusivity and diversity. Especially in these tension-filled times in our country, we need to ensure that Fontbonne’s campus is a safe place for EVERYONE.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience wearing the hijab for the day. I found that wearing the hijab felt empowering while talking to people. I felt that they were truly listening to me for my thoughts and opinions, not based off my physicality. I have a much deeper respect for hijabi women after my experience with World Hijab Day 2017. I hope that more women at Fontbonne will come together for World Hijab Day 2018. Unfortunately, I saw only few freshman girls in the St. Joe Residence Hall wearing the hijab. While this is a little discouraging, this should call people to greater action than wearing the hijab for a couple hours. Whether this is making a call to your local representatives explaining your stance on the travel ban or starting a new diverse student organization at FBU, we all have a calling. Find your calling and keep moving forward.Shelby, me, and Maddie.