During a rainy afternoon at Cal State Long Beach, the Muslim Student Association handed out head scarves to women — not to protect their hair from the humidity but rather to provide them with a new experience.
The hijab challenge that took place in front of Liberal Arts 5 on Thursday was an attempt to help educate CSULB students about a religion that has received criticism and negative press over the years, according to Amina Hasan, organizer for the Muslim Student Association (MSA).
A hijab is a veil that covers the hair and neck, and is worn by Muslim women to protect them from the ideals that the fashion industry and media dictates what is deemed appropriate. The word “hijab” comes from the Arabic word “hajaba” meaning to hide from view or conceal.
“The goal was to teach what Islam really is because there’s so much negativity going around about Muslim people who are portrayed so negatively in the media,” Hasan said. “We’re regular people just like anyone else.”
Junior health science major Ana Martinez, said she wore the hijab despite receiving mixed looks. Martinez volunteered to wear it on campus and didn’t remove the garment until she arrived at home, over an hour later.
“I got a few looks on the train, and I was the only person wearing one,” Martinez said. “It felt a little weird at first, but I got used to it. It even took getting used to on campus as people didn’t discriminate, but I still got stared at on a few occasions.”
Hasan said that being a Muslim and wearing a hijab are oftentimes associated with terrorism.
“I always get stopped for a special screening at the airport, which can be frustrating,” Hasan said. “People think we’re all terrorists. In one occasion … my luggage accidentally bumped into a seat and people screamed out of fear thinking it was a bomb.”
Hasan also said that just after this incident, her sister overheard one seated passenger express his gratitude as Hasan and her sister made their way to their seats, saying, “Thank God they’re sitting in the back.”
The hijab giveaway, however, had a great turnout, MSA Secretary Alia Elasmar said. Nearly 70 hijabs were handed out, according to Hasan.
“We finished all three baskets of hijabs,” Elasmar said. “This campus has a diverse population and is more open-minded than most schools in Southern California.”
Freshman biology Major Tatiana Avila also wore a hijab and said it was a great opportunity for other students to show support for a religion and culture that always seems to be criticized.
“I don’t feel strange having it on, but it makes me feel more out of the loop with most students not wearing one,” Avila said, “but it gives people a chance to experience what Muslims have to go through all the time.”
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