The first-ever World Hijab Day was held at the University of Calgary Jan. 31.
More than 100 donated scarves covered the three-table station in the MacEwan Student Centre when the event began, and by the end of the day, only six remained.
The display boasted a large variety of fabrics and colours. Students and members of the general public were welcomed to try on the well-known and sometimes controversial Muslim head cover, also known as the hijab.
“It’s like walking a mile in our shoes,” said World Hijab Day volunteer Sondous Said.
The fifth year English major said the feedback throughout the day was really positive.
“The University of Calgary doesn’t have a reputation for being racist or anything, but you get a few comments here and there,” Said explained.
“A couple years ago, a guy called me a terrorist as I was walking out of this building, and his friends laughed.
“I think it was a joke, but you never know what people are really thinking, so this project is a good way to get that discussion going.”
World Hijab Day, typically celebrated on Feb. 1 worldwide, was hosted on for the first time ever in Calgary on the Friday by, by the University of Calgary’s Muslim Students Association, to reach a larger campus audience.
Non-hijab wearing women were free to ask questions as they got a scarf tied to their heads, and the volunteers, who all wear hijabs, answered them.
Hala Husien, a third-year biology student and event volunteer, said the display will most likely become an annual project.
“People have been saying it’s really great, and they want to see it every year.”
Husien, who was busy tying scarves throughout the day, said it’s not necessarily racism that ignites this project.
“People are just kind of ignorant.
“They paint us with the same brush – they don’t expect individuality.
“This project is supposed to be an eye-opener, because once these girls put the scarf on, they realize that we’re just like them. The only difference is we wear the scarf all the time, and they’re only wearing it for the day.”
However, not all of the women were up to take on the challenge for the full day.
Most of the women getting their scarves tied said they would keep it on for a few hours, but would probably take it off before they went home.
Claudia Wong, however, who had a light pink scarf wrapped around her face, said she definitely planned to wear the hijab for the full day.
“I was a bit hesitant at first, but then I realized that people wear this every day of the year, so I can do it for 24 hours at the very least.
“I want to stop the prejudice we have, and this is how it starts.”
Alycia Lauzon, the Service-Learning Co-ordinator at the Centre for Community-Engaged Learning, said she decided to try on the hijab to get a different experience.
As one of the volunteers wrapped a thin fuchsia scarf around her face, Lauzon said it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all and thought it looked pretty.
As different women walked away with their hijabs on, several taking pictures of themselves and their friends to post on Instagram, many had their own reasons for participating in the event.
Ashley Abarca-Chamarro said she planned to wear the hijab to her sister’s birthday, and was on her way to the mall.
“I told her that I was doing it and she said, ‘This is exactly the kind of thing you would do.’
“I thought it would be fun to see what it’s like.”
As she got the finishing touch on her hijab, she said it “doesn’t feel weird,” and got a picture taken with one of the volunteers.
“This project is supposed to be an eye-opener, because once these girls put the scarf on they realize that we’re just like them. The only difference is we wear the scarf all the time, and they’re only wearing it for the day.” – Hala Husien
According to the volunteers, none of the women trying the hijab on had any reservations about doing it, but some were more hesitant than others.
“It feels a lot warmer than I expected,” laughed Prakriti Sharma, as a bright pink hijab was wrapped around her head.
“I don’t think my ears have ever been this warm.”
Sharma added that she probably wouldn’t wear the hijab for the full day, but recommended that everyone try it.
“This is one of those things that you have to try at least once, you know?
“Just to see.”