This column is specifically by the two presenters of the Islamic Club event: Hijab This is Our Empowerment. Presidents of the Islamic Club encourage people to speak out about their discomfort; however, considering we claim to be an open-minded campus we would hope for students to be liberal in the way they speak and the way they address their discomfort. Since some of you were unable to attend the presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in Ferris Lounge, we will share now some of the information that was shared with the 65-70 members of faculty, staff and students of Knox who were able to attend. One major concern presented by audience members was the idea of cultural appropriation.We were both presenters at the Hijab Forum explained that, “Practicing a culture is cultural appreciation. Adapting a culture to your own is cultural adoption. Taking credit for that culture, and in the process denying the people who created it or ignoring them is cultural appropriation.” These are widely known definitions and clarifications for cultural appropriation.
It is important to realize that this event would have been cultural appropriation if people denied the significance or relevance behind the headscarf; however, that was not what happened. Another concern expressed was the symbol of oppression that the Hijab carries for some people. Both presenters addressed the issue of how the Hijab has been used as a tool to oppress women in some countries where it is forced; however, that is not the global perspective. We understand that in parts of the world the Hijab can be deemed as oppressive while in other parts of the world the Hijab is empowering for those that choose to wear it — such differences and perspectives were presented during the forum.
There was a passionate column written in regards to the the Hijab Day event; however, we, as presenters of the event, wish a similar passion was shown when different parties invited you to attend the debrief held the night of Hijab Day. We reached out twice to the party who wrote the TKS column having strong reservations regarding the event; however, both times the respondent had other commitments and failed to reach out again. If this event were such a concern, one could have reached out to presidents of the Islamic Club or faculty/staff members or one should voice out their opinion in ways which advocate for systemic change. Calling 50 women, who decided to participate in the Hijab Day, ignorant discourages rather than encourages dialogue. We encourage students to, rather than promptly speak out about reservations and worries about a certain event, to please attend the event and address your concerns with those putting it on. Considering faculty and staff members attended and participated in this event, we believe a dialogue could have been mediated rather than going to a platform such as a TKS column, which only allowed for one perspective to be shared.
TKS quoted one of the presenters who said this was, “the happiest day of her Knox career” in last week’s article. However, the aftermath of the Hijab day made her re-question that day; to one of the presenters, it felt like another incident of Islamophobia. Being the only two Muslim girls wearing the hijab on Knox’s campus, our goal was to bring awareness to some of the misconceptions of the hijab and what it means to wear one. In a time where Islamophobia in America is rampantly rising, this event was a way for us to bring awareness to the oppression Muslim women face for practicing the fundamental values and rights of freedom of religion in the United States. As mentioned above, this is not for activism but for awareness; it is extremely disappointing that those making the opposite claim were not able to join the forum and debrief where this was addressed.
Though a couple students disagreed with the purpose of the event, Islamic Club would like to take this opportunity to thank the 70 faculty members, staff and students who attended the debrief and the 50 women who decided to partake and wear the Hijab for a day on March 1. Islamic Club would also like to thank all those that provided members of the club with immense support beyond the event. Islamic Club continues to thank you for all your support, as the club will continue to host such Hijab events in the years to come. We hope to continue raising awareness and providing a forum for both practicing and non-practicing muslims to share their varied experiences.
We encourage students to come to Islamic Club meetings and voice out and address their concerns along with finding alternative ways to promote Islam on campus.