Students combat Islamophobia with Hijab and Kufi Day


Neha Nadeem, a sophomore biological sciences major, and Simrun Ursani, a freshman health sciences major, table at the Muslim Student Association’s tent in the Atallah Piazza. Photo by Caitie Guttry

The sounds of the oud, a traditional Arabian stringed instrument, filled the Attallah Piazza Feb. 23 at Hijab and Kufi Day. Hosted by the Muslim Student Association, the event aimed to dispel misconceptions about the Islamic religion and combat Islamophobia, said Kenzie Saleh, president of the association.

The event was prompted by President Donald Trump’s travel ban that affected seven Muslim-majority countries and the subsequent student march against xenophobia Feb. 1, said Hakeem Wakil, a freshman news and documentary major and member of the Muslim Student Association.

Rabka Gajiani, a sophomore pharmacy major, and Nusayba Ahmed, a senior health sciences major, pose together in a frame during Hijab and Kufi Day. Photo by Caitie Guttry

“Once the Muslim ban occurred, I felt like it was a necessity,” Wakil said. “I had an obligation to educate others and do something about it. I couldn’t just sit around.”

Hijab and Kufi Day allowed students to wear the hijab, a headscarf traditionally worn by Muslim women, or the kufi, a cap typically worn by Muslim men.

The Muslim Student Association received support from the Islamic Institute of Orange County, which donated about 150 headscarves and about 25 kufis for the event.

Arianna Ngnomire, a sophomore screen acting major, posted on the event’s Facebook page beforehand that, while she wanted to participate, she was concerned about culturally appropriating by wearing a hijab, but Wakil explained that participating in the day was about showing support.

“We have multiple mosques who support what we’re doing, and I don’t think that a religious institution is going to support an event that is considered cultural appropriation,” Wakil said. “Wearing the hijab on that day and wearing the kufi on that day is not cultural appropriation, it’s showing your solidarity.”

Along with showing students how to wear the hijab and the kufi, the Muslim Student Association provided students with pamphlets on the Islamic religion, henna tattoos, traditional Middle Eastern desserts and live music from Muslim Student Association member Muhammad Karkoutli, who played the oud.

The Muslim Student Association’s table displayed copies of the Quran. Photo by Caitie Guttry

Saleh estimated that more than 100 students stopped at the event’s table to show their support by putting on the traditional Muslim garments or learning more about the Islamic religion from members.

Sophomore psychology major Jessica Blum participated by wearing a hijab, and said she appreciated that the Muslim Student Association hosted the event.

“Especially with current happenings in our country, I think it’s important that (the Muslim Student Association) is doing what they can to dispel myths about Islam,” Blum said.

Hannah Sturhann, a freshman integrated educational studies major, showed her support by wearing a hijab for the day and said that Hijab and Kufi Day made her aware of her lack of knowledge about Islamic traditions, which she said can lead to stereotyping and Islamophobia.

“For me, I didn’t completely understand the purpose of wearing the hijab until this event. One of the members of (the Muslim Student Association) explained that, for her, she wears it in order to allow people to judge her by her opinions and personality instead of by her appearance,” Sturhann said. “She wears it as a way to express her identity, and not because she is oppressed.”

According to the BBC, women wear hijabs for a variety of reasons, one of which being for religious practice.
Saleh also said that Hijab and Kufi Day served as a way to address misunderstandings about the Islamic religion.

“It’s uncomfortable to be a Muslim in this political climate, especially when a lot of people support Donald Trump’s xenophobic views,” Saleh said. “It makes all of us look like the bad guys. It lumps all Muslims into this category of terrorists.”

Saleh said that, along with other members of the Muslim Student Association, she has experienced how difficult it is to be an American Muslim during this time.

“You just have to be strong and put your best foot forward these days. It’s hard sometimes. You get comments every once in awhile,” Saleh said. “Just be positive. Do good things and good things will happen to you.”

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