Ever wondered what Muslim women feel like in their headscarves?
Last Thursday, the National University of Singapore Muslim Society (NUSMS) organized a event called The Hijab Challenge (THC) during which NUS female staff and students were invted to don the hijab for as long as they liked.
THC was part of Islamic Appreciation Week (IAW) 2012, which ran from 13 to 17 February. IAW also included interactive exhibitions inside and outside the Central Library, and evening talks about the Islamic faith.
The hijab literally means “curtain” or “cover” and refers to the head covering worn by Muslim women, or their modest style of dressing in general. Locally, the term tudong is more commonly used to describe the headscarf which covers the hair but leaves the face exposed. It differs from the niqab, a cloth which covers the face, and the burqa, a garment covering the whole body leaving only the eyes exposed.
When the Observer visited the booth for THC, an array of colourful scarves and shawls hung behind a table with informative pamphlets. A participant could pick a scarf (free for keeping after the challenge) and be dressed by the members of NUSMS. The experience came complete with a ‘modesty contract’, an agreement to behave modestly in the hijab.
The wearing of hijab has attracted controversy around the world. While women in parts of the Middle East are legally required by the law to wear a hajib, their counterparts in France and Turkey are prohibited from wearing the hijab in schools, universities and government buildings.
“There’s a lot of talk about the hijab but often, the people talking about it don’t wear the hijab,” said Fadhilah Abdul Rahman Zamawi, a Business (Accountancy) student and co-organiser of THC. “We wanted to give people a chance to step into our shoes.”
THC was followed by a Wardah (flower) Tea Party, a session held the following day for those who took part in THC to share their experience in the hijab. The Tea Party attracted a handful of THC participants, among them exchange students who found it a novel event. The participants shared their thoughts and feelings on wearing the hijab for the first time and how one would always be judged no matter what one wore.
Female members of NUSMS also spoke of what the hijab meant to them – modesty, humility and a symbol of commitment to the Islamic God.
“The hijab reminds me of who I was meant to be,” said an emotional Sumaiyah Bte Mohamed, a final year psychology major.
THC is indeed a novel event that facilitated a better understanding of the specific meaning behind the practices and traditions of the Islamic religion.