Non-Muslims wear the hijab for Ramadan in solidarity with Muslimas

Culture & Entertainment
Collage of World Hijab Day 30-day Challenge participants: (left) Grace Lloyd, an eleven-year-old British Christian who lives in Qatar; (right) Pamela Zafred, a nineteen-year-old Brazilian student. Photos courtesy of Grace and Pamela.

Ninteen-year-old Brazilian student Pamela Zafred is not Muslim. Yet she has been wearing the hijab since Ramadan began: she is one of the many women who take part in the World Hijab Day Organisation’s 30-Day Ramadan Hijab Challenge.

World Hijab Day is celebrated annually on February 1 in solidarity with women who choose to be covered. According to Nazma Khan, the founder and CEO of the World Hijab Day Organisation, the 30-day challenge is an opportunity for those who want to better understand the struggles and discrimination that Muslim women face every day because of their choice of clothing. She also has hopes that it will offer global support for women who want to wear the hijab but don’t know how to take the first step.

World Hijab Day_Pamela Zafred

Pamela Zafred, a participant of World Hijab Day 30-day challenge from Brazil. Photo courtesy of Pamela Zafred.

“In my society, the hijab is mostly socially rejected, even though people accept Catholic nuns covering their heads due to their faith," Pamela told My Salaam. "I decided to join the 30-day hijab challenge because I empathise with those sisters who choose to wear the hijab … This social experiment became an opportunity for people who have never talked about or searched for the meaning of the hijab to question me about it and try to understand the real meaning of wearing it.”

Pamela said that she has had both positive and negative reactions to her headscarf, “but unfortunately, mostly negative reactions because the hijab is still seen as a ‘symbol of oppression’ or ‘terrorism’ thanks to wrong ideas spread by the media or people without knowledge.”

She added that disapproving looks were directed at her when she walked down the streets of her home city, Goiânia. At her gym, she overheard incessant jokes about her, and nobody wanted to work out with her.

On one occasion, on her way home, two bystanders saw her pass, and one said to the other, “Look at this! How frightful! She should go back to her country.” “He thought I did not speak Portuguese," Pamela  said. "I told him I was Brazilian and he was being intolerant, but he ignored me. However, there was a man walking behind me and he asked what the other man had said to me. I told him, and he said, ‘I am so sorry for such ignorance. If you want, I can go with you to the police to register a complaint.’” 

World Hijab Day_Grace Lloyd and mother
The youngest participant of the World Hijab Day 30-day challenge, Grace Lloyd (left), and mother, Ellie Lloyd who is an Executive Director of World Hijab Day Organisation. Photo courtesy of Grace Lloyd.

Eleven-year-old Grace Lloyd has had a different experience as a participant of the challenge. Grace is a British Christian who lives in Qatar and is the daughter of Ellie Lloyd, Executive Director of the World Hijab Day Organisation. Her mother explained, “We are working on many things to keep the organisation alive throughout the year and raise money for things like self-defence classes in high hate-crime areas as well as a Muslima Mentoring Programme, amongst other things.” 

When Ellie decided to take on the challenge, Grace decided to participate too. “I made her think for a long time, as I felt it was a big commitment for an 11-year-old. But she is a very determined young lady and of her own volition was desperate to take part too. She is our youngest participant and has been amazing throughout with live vlogs and interviews." 

Grace says of her experience so far, “I have learned what it feels like to wear the hijab physically; sometimes it was hard. So I see the commitment Muslim women must have to choose to wear the hijab for life. I have felt closer to my classmates who wear the hijab. I had a round of applause the first day I went into school with it.”

She says most of the negativity she faced was online: negative comments on her posts and articles about her. “I already knew there were prejudiced people in the world, but I got to see it for myself from some of the negative comments,” Grace said. 

But she added that she didn’t let it bother her, and she plans to participate every year.

(Writing by Susan Muthalaly; Editing by Seban Scaria seban.scaria@thomsonreuters.com)

© MySalaam.com 2018 All rights reserved

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