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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 4 Feb 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Being Behind the Veil: It's Been Tough, Terrifying But in the End – A Fulfilling Experience


By Ahmad Kashmiri

 2 Feb 2015

I too, like many other friends, believed that observing annual special days was a futile exercise and nothing more than a mere custom. But last year I watched a video wherein Nazimah Khan, a Bangladeshi native migrated to America at the age of 11, says in a talk how she was suppressed for wearing Hijab and how she tolerated things and finally started a revolutionary mission naming it WORLD HIJAB DAY.  After watching the video my perspective changed and I felt that all places were not the same but there was scope of observing days as well in other parts of the world.

Nazimah says that at the age of 11 she with six family members went from Bangladesh to America in the hope of a bright future. At that time her parents had only ten dollars in pocket but that did not restrict them to sent their daughter to school.

She says she did not know what as waiting for her at school when she would hardly speak a word of English and was the only girl in school wearing scarf (Hijab).

 In her heart moving speech, Nazimah Khan describes that she would cover only to obey her creator and that she would express herself like that as a Muslim woman should be.

She says but she was not having even the idea that a piece of fabric on her head would give her so much trouble for next so many years.” I was discriminated verbally and physically.   I was called names such as BATMAN and Ninja. At one point students literally kicked me and spat at me both inside and outside of the school, I was so scared that I entered the school from the boys' entrance instead of the girls. I believe I was the only girl to do so, the lowest point of my discrimination at middle school in Bronx was not what I went through from by classmates but rather when my English teacher decided to make fun of the way I dressed. As a teacher he was supposed to protect me and help me boost my confidence, yet he did the opposite by crushing my self esteem to the ground “

The narrator reveals that she faced the similar situation at her high school but with more intensity, she recalls the day when a bunch of girls had been waiting outside the classroom for her only to pull her scarf off. She recalls another day when ten to fifteen boys had surrounded her to spit on and mocked her Hijab and that had been the helpless moment. She says that at that moment she felt not only helpless but terrified. She would face a question constantly, can’t you dress ever normal?

This constant discrimination continued for her throughout the high school period. She says that she would have dropped the school but that was never an option.

 With tears rolling down her face she says, “in fact I graduated and topped the list. I was more terrified when I entered university during the time of 9/11, being a Muslim in New York City after 9/11 was risky to begin with. To add trouble, being a Hijabi (pauses while weeping) was a direct sign saying that she is a Muslim. I constantly lived in fear as I was called names, Osama Bin Laden and Terrorist (wiping tears) and of course I could never forget those stares as if I was from a different planet”

Nazimah Khan says that at many times she was chased in those streets which were a nightmare.

She says some years back on 1st October, 2010 she launched an online Hijab store. and the ambition of her business was just to serve others as she needed a platform where Muslim women could share the experiences of their Hijab wearing.

After some time she began to receive emails from women across the globe. She says that she remembers Aaliya, a 14 year old girl from UK who had written her an email explaining that how her (Aaliya’s) classmates had spit on her Hijab and made fun of it. She received numerous emails from those women who had been either expelled from jobs or dropped in interviews just because they wore Hijab. She says after reading all those emails she was able to make relation with other women for whom she had sympathy and that she was able to know what was going on.

In the summer of 2011 she received emails from the women throughout the globe who had no different situation and trouble at this moment she rethought that how could she help her women.

“This was the time when the idea of the WORLD HIJAB DAY CAME to my mind , so I created a website called along with the FB fan page  I launched them on Jan 21 2013. I thought if I could invite women in all faiths, Muslims and non Muslims to walk in my shoes, just for one day, perhaps the things would change, I wanted to bring this idea to life “

 In this way she created a website called WORLDHIJABDAY.COM on January 21, 2013, she says that her message was simply to invite the women of all faith and make them wear Hijab just for a day that was  1ST FEB, 2013, she reveals that just within 8 days she received responses from 67 countries including UK, Australia, Nigeria , Indonesia, Pakistan, Sweden , Albania, Denmark, Mexico and others with the women of different religious backgrounds including, Jewish, Christian, Pagan   and Atheist etc. and many more women welcomed my mission and I was able to translate WHD in 23 different languages including Dutch, Krosian, Indonesian  and Burmese

 She says that world Hijab day was featured on mainstream media such as BBC, Aljazeera, Washington Post and many more. Nazimah Says that WHB was a huge success as women from different faiths joined hand in hand in solidarity to support millions of women who choose to wear Hijab on a daily basis and live a life of modesty. It has helped many women to embrace the Hijab for lifetime. She says a sister Natasha expressed world Hijab day was the encouragement needed to wear Hijab by next WHD she would proudly say that she has been a Hijabi for a year Insha Allah.