Hijab Handout Clears US Misconceptions
CAIRO – Fighting misconceptions associated with Muslim headscarf, Muslim students at California State University arranged a hijab handout to their colleagues to educate them about criticism and negative image drawn by media over the past decade.
“The goal was to teach what Islam really is because there’s so much negativity going around about Muslim people who are portrayed so negatively in the media,” Amina Hasan, organizer for the Muslim Student Association (MSA), told Daily 49ER, the university’s news website, on Sunday, December 2.
“We’re regular people just like anyone else.”
The event, held last Thursday on a rainy afternoon, was sponsored by students of MSA at California State University Long Beach (CSULB).
Standing to welcome students, MSA students suggested hijab handout as an attempt to educate CSULB students about Islam that has received criticism and negative press over years.
Hasan said that being a Muslim and wearing a hijab are oftentimes associated with terrorism.
“I always get stopped for a special screening at the airport, which can be frustrating,” Hasan said.
For her, the hijab handout was an attempt to correct misconceptions about Islam.
“People think we’re all terrorists,” Hassan said.
“In one occasion … my luggage accidentally bumped into a seat and people screamed out of fear thinking it was a bomb.”
Hasan added that just after this incident, her sister overheard one seated passenger express his gratitude as Hasan and her sister made their way to their seats, saying, “Thank God they’re sitting in the back.”
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Accepting hijab from Muslim students, California Long Beach non-Muslim students appreciated the initiative for giving them a glimpse into veiled Muslim feelings.
“I got a few looks on the train, and I was the only person wearing one,” junior health science major Ana Martinez, said.
Martinez volunteered to wear hijab on campus and didn’t remove the garment until she arrived at home, over an hour later.
“It felt a little weird at first, but I got used to it. It even took getting used to on campus as people didn’t discriminate, but I still got stared at on a few occasions.”
Freshman biology major Tatiana Avila also wore a hijab and said it was a great opportunity for other students to show support for a religion and culture that always seems to be criticized.
“I don’t feel strange having it on, but it makes me feel more out of the loop with most students not wearing one,” Avila said.
“But it gives people a chance to experience what Muslims have to go through all the time.”
Receiving positive reactions, MSA secretary Alia Elasmar praised the event as a success, hailing open-minded California students.
“We finished all three baskets of hijabs,” Elasmar said.
“This campus has a diverse population and is more open-minded than most schools in Southern California.”