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Why 3 very different women will be wearing headscarves on World Hijab Day

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Five years ago, a Muslim woman in New York decided to invite other women to experience what life is like in America when you wear a hijab.

Nazma Khan said she wanted to foster religious tolerance and fight stereotypes about women who choose to wear the hijab, a traditional headscarf worn by some Muslim women. She figured if women wore the headscarf even for just one day, it might open their eyes.

Since then, the movement has spread across the globe, with women across America and as far away as the Philippines and Ireland wearing hijabs for World Hijab Day.

There’s now a World Hijab Day website, a Facebook page and, of course, in a social-media friendly universe there are also hashtags: #IStand4Hijab and #WorldHijabDay.

But Christian and Muslim women planning to gather Wednesday in Phoenix say this year feels different.

Women of different faiths will be wearing headscarves just days after President Donald Trump issued executive orders affecting immigrants and refugees. These women will stand together two days after someone walked into a Quebec City mosque and started shooting, killing six people and wounding others. They are gathering at a time when people are uniting in massive protests for human rights.

Here’s why three very different women will be wearing headscarves Wednesday on World Hijab Day.

Deedra Abboud

Deedra Abboud was born in Arkansas and converted to Islam 18 years ago after she moved to Arizona. She is one of the organizers of the Phoenix World Hijab Day gathering. She sees the day as a way to show solidarity with Muslim women in Arizona and worldwide.

“Muslim women who are wearing the headscarf in the United States are under a lot of scrutiny,” she said. “They get a lot of negative looks and some are even attacked.”

Abboud said she chose to wear the scarf because it was a physical way of signaling she was a Muslim woman. She liked that people stopped judging her on the way her body looked.

“You can only judge me on what I do and what I say,” she said.

Abboud said she gets the stares and snide remarks. One day someone yelled out the window: “Go back to where you came from.”

She was close enough to yell back: “But I didn’t really like Arkansas.”

Some Muslim women have pushed back against World Hijab Day, arguing that there are countries where women are forced to wear the hijab.

Abboud says in America no one is forced to wear a hijab and that in many majority-Muslim countries, women do not wear headscarves. She said no one should judge another for what they are wearing or not wearing.

“We shouldn’t judge people on how they dress,” she said. “If a woman is dressed in a hijab it doesn’t mean she’s a radical, if she’s dressed in short-shorts it doesn’t mean she’s a slut.”

Fara Arefi

Fara Arefi won’t be at Phoenix’s World Hijab Day event, but she will be wearing a hijab as she does every day.

Arefi was 17 when she decided to start wearing the scarf. Her Muslim family balked at her choice. Arefi was born in America, but her family is from Afghanistan. A lot of Americans don’t understand that wearing a hijab is a choice for the majority of Muslim women, she said.

“It doesn’t make you more Muslim or less Muslim,” she said.

But she knows that putting on a headscarf and wearing it in public can make you a target for hate.

“None of the women in my family wear one,” she said. “They were worried. They told me, ‘No, take it off.’ ”

Arefi told her family that as an American, she felt the freedom to wear what she wants and practice her faith any way she wants. Then one day, a couple of years ago, she started getting dirty looks from a group of men at the Phoenix-area gym where she worked out.

She ignored the men, even on the day she said they yelled at her in the parking lot. She kept her eyes cast downward and hurried into the gym. After her workout they were gone. She got in her car and minutes after pulling onto the freeway, she lost control of her car. She said she spun out until her car was sideways.

“It was the scariest moment of my life,” she said.

When the police showed up, they told her that her tires had been slashed. When her parents found out they pleaded with her again: “Please, please, stop wearing a hijab.”

Arefi said the experience changed her. She is more careful and more afraid. But it made her feel even stronger about her decision to wear a hijab, because, in America, she said, no one should be persecuted because of their religious beliefs.

Sue Ringler

Sue Ringler is a pastor at a Tempe church. The congregation has taken a stance on many controversial social issues. They support marriage equality and immigrant rights, and they joined demonstrations of support when a nearby mosque was under attack.

Ringler heard from Abboud about the World Hijab Day gathering in Phoenix. She talked with her congregation and about 20 women decided to join.

Abboud gave Ringler a box full of headscarves in a rainbow of colors. A few days ago, the women gathered at the church with a couple of Muslim women who showed them how to wear the hijab.

They talked about their faith and their lives. Ringler’s church has been making signs to hand out to parishioners. The red signs read: Love your neighbor.

When it was time to leave, a few women who rode their bikes to the church decided to wear their headscarves home. Ringler recalls the scene.

“It was something beautiful, women on bikes, with hijabs and big red ‘Love your neighbor’ signs,” she said.

Ringler and the women in her congregation will be wearing the hijabs on Wednesdays for the next month, maybe longer, she said.

“We all need to find ways to show people who feel alone we’re with them,” she said.

[Source: AZ Central]

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