World Hijab Day and the Rebirth of Spring

This past weekend was Imbolc/Candlemas/Exploration, so if you celebrated any of those I wish you the happiest of seasons!

But lots of people have been posting specifically about that. I wanted to talk about something else celebrated over the weekend: World Hijab Day.

World Hijab Day is fairly new, and the idea is simple. Women of all faiths are encouraged to wear the Muslim hijab for one day, just to see what it’s like both on a personal and a social level. Participants take a stand and confront racial and faith-based discrimination in their day-to-day lives. I made a point of participating.

Image

Me, running errands on World Hijab Day.

I didn’t choose to participate because I too now cover my hair. It’s because I remember the aftermath of 9/11, when random Muslim women were getting assaulted in the streets for being “terrorists”. A bunch of ladies I knew got together in the South and wore hijabs in solidarity with those women around that time, because Muslim or Pagan or Christian no one deserves to get hassled because of the god they choose to follow. This is simply an extension of that.

It’s because I remember flying home from Houston on Christmas Day a few weeks ago, new to covering my hair but instinctively knowing I’d get more hassle from the TSA if I wore a headscarf than if I wore a beret. I can choose to cover my hair in other ways, unlike most who wear the hijab. That was my first personal encounter with this kind of privilege and it left me distinctly unsettled. I went with a beret for my flight to avoid potential headaches, and have been kicking my own ass for making such a cowardly choice since. Participating in World Hijab Day, occasionally wearing a hijab simply because they’re beautiful, and wearing one next time I fly are all ways to redeem that.

It’s because of the backlash against the Coca Cola ad aired during the Super Bowl, an ad that dared to suggest America is made up of people from a multitude of races and cultures and languages. Seeing the responses made it clear how far a society founded on the ideals of justice and equality still has to go to reach them.

It’s because I’m personally tired of seeing the idea of “real America” – the country that accepts the tired and poor from everywhere else and gives them a chance to work for something better – be co-opted by racist, intolerant, belligerent, ignorant bigots who try to limit access to the American Dream to those who are just like themselves.

And it’s because I’m a polytheist and thus have no choice, none at all. How can I honor the multitudes of gods if I limit my respect to only those cultures I admire? How can I honor the Ancestors if I limit my respect to only Those who speak my language and share my faith? How can I honor the Land Spirits if I limit my respect to only the pieces inhabited by people who agree with me?

*shrug* I can’t. We’re a pluralistic, multicultural, multilingual, multinational faith by default. We have to deliberately choose to be bigots if we do it at all.

Polytheists, and Pagans and Reconstructionists too, are also a minority faith. By stepping up to support religious freedom in general we support it for ourselves, and hopefully form alliances with others that will help support us in turn.

I wore a hijab on World Hijab Day, and I’m wearing one at work today. I wear it in support of Muslim women (and anyone else who is marginalized along faith/culture/language/ethnic/nation lines), as an expression of political and social activism, and as a service to my faith.

What a fitting tribute to the beginning of spring! May everyone be truly blessed.

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5 thoughts on “World Hijab Day and the Rebirth of Spring

  1. Caelesti says:

    I didn’t know about that otherwise I might have tried it. My friend/co-worker is a convert to Islam, she says after she started wearing it was the first time she really experienced prejudice.

  2. Wearing a hijab, as a white person in the USA, is an act of cultural appropriation, especially since, by receiving all the benefits of being white, you don’t share in the struggle that folks of color face.

    However well intentioned (see the keffeyia /solidarity with Palestine example in the zine below), doing so is a microaggression for folks of color:
    https://db.tt/WVxZCq2h

    Perhaps you can find another way to show your solidarity with muslim folks/muslim women?

    • Caer Jones says:

      Cultural appropriation is something that many of us who cover have debated to death. After all, there are only so many ways to tie a scarf on one’s head, and sooner than you might think you’re going to run into a style associated with some other group. It’s something that constantly comes up, again and again, on the forums and such as we discuss the issue.

      So we’ve reached out, and have been reaching out for years, to cultures that traditionally cover their heads. Most of the Pagans/devotional polytheists who cover are well-intentioned and well-educated white folks who want to avoid stepping on people toes and have no desire to demonstrate disrespect. We’ve talked to Muslims about wearing hijab styles, Jews about wearing tichel styles, Amish/Mennonite folks about wearing caps, etc.

      The OVERWHELMING majority of all groups we’ve talked to are perfectly a-ok with associated headcoverings being worn by people not of their faith. In fact, many encourage it. In addition, covering is such a widely-practiced thing that no one group can claim it as their own.

      In fact, the only people who ever seem to bring up cultural appropriation concerns about it – at least in my experience – are all people who don’t cover and who do not come from traditions that do.

      Personally, I think automatically assuming cultural appropriation without talking it over with members of the culture in question is the true microaggression. Being completely dismissive of how members of another culture feel about a topic is just as bad as jumping right to the “cultural appropriation” conclusion without talking to them. Neither approach gives the people in question a voice. And silencing another group is not ok, no matter how well-intentioned we might be.

      It’s more respectful to let members of various cultures speak for themselves, to get their insights and perspectives. And once I have those conversations and get those answers, it’s ridiculous to base my behavior off of my own underlying assumptions instead of what these groups have told me.

      If ever I’m told by practicing members of a culture that my tying a scarf on my head in a certain way is cultural appropriation I will obviously reexamine where I’m at with this. Until I get that response, though, I will continue on as I have been.

      Thanks for the response, though – it’s definitely a concern we need to be aware of!

      • One of the important things to understand about cultural appropriation is the fact theat it is a symptom, a result, of white supremacy, the system by which we promote/reinforce white folks and whiteness. Given that, I’m not surprised that the issue has been greatly debated and that ‘most groups are A-Ok with this’. As much as that permission is important, it still doesn’t erase the fact that you are a white body doing something normally associated with folks of color. Even as ubiquitous as the hip hop teenage style was in the ’90s, doesn’t erase the fact that when a white body does something that is associated with/ originated from folks of color, they are implicitly making the statement: “since I am white, I can become this”. That becoming, that implicit statement to me is the essence of cultural appropriation. Its also why I stand by my statement, that even tho you have the support / permission of folks of color, the understanding of people who cover, and so on, it is still cultural appropriation. This is especially true, like in gentrifying neighborhoods, or in covering contexts, if folks of color who recognize your inherent value as a white person and are interested in trying to convert you or use your white body as a cover.

        Again, your white body is a signal, a sign, an outside of you assignation by outside social forces. Its not something you are in control of, but it is definitely something you ought to be aware of. To not be aware of it, with a corresponding change in action, is to let yourself be an active collaborator in colonialism and white supremacy.

        If you are interested in undoing the pain that white supremacy and colonialism causes, I think not appropriating other cultures and finding a different way of covering your hair would be a good place to start.


        Cordelia

      • Caer Jones says:

        I understand and applaud your efforts to clarify this, and get that it’s something you’re passionate about. I think this whole topic is something we’re going to have to agree to disagree about, however.

        My biggest issue here with your stance is that no distinction is made between things that a culture wishes to share and that which it doesn’t. It’s a categoric dismissal of the nuances in the situation, and I happen to think those nuances are pretty important.

        There are aspects of culture to which the people in that culture do not have a strong attachment, aspects that are deliberately created to be shared as widely as possible, and aspects that a given culture might want to keep to themselves. If something is designated “closed” – as in the majority of the people in a given culture don’t want to share it – then I am totally ok with honoring their wishes. But aspects that a culture wants to share, or are created expressly to share? I simply don’t see the issue there. Appropriation is defined as theft, and you can’t steal something that’s being given away.

        Again, thanks for reading the blog and engaging on the topic!

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