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.

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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.