SHAFAQNA – After encouragement from her political science professor, Ariana Gallegos found herself sifting through a mound of free hijabs on a table outside the EMU, ready to wear one for her first time.
Wednesday was the fifth annual World Hijab Day. The UO Muslim Student Association fitted nearly 100 students and staff with free hijabs to celebrate their culture and create solidarity between cultures.
UO Student Mayra Elide Jaquez, a member of the Muslim student group, fitted Gallagos with a green hijab.
Jaquez, a romance language major, wore a black niqab, a piece of clothing that covered her whole face except her eyes. She said a common question asked by first-time wearers is about offending Muslims. Jaquez said she is “definitely not” offended when non-Muslim women wear hijabs.
Jaquez said World Hijab Day was created “for people who are either Muslim or non-Muslim who don’t wear it and would like to.”
“People just want to show their support and they want to see what it’s like to step in our shoes,” she said.
Some students attended a 4 p.m. meeting in the Multicultural Center in the EMU, where the Muslim Student Association held an open conversation with first-time hijab-wearers.
For Jaquez, she said wearing the hijab is actually a way of escaping oppression. When she wears the headscarf, she said she’s not looked at in a sexualized way or as a competitor with other women.
The headscarves are part of the Muslim dress code, according to Arabic Studies Professor Hanan Ahmed. Women wear them for modesty and devotion — a form of liberty that is often misconceived by western society as a form of oppression.
Ahmed gave a presentation to about 30 students who attended the meeting.
Some girls in the discussion said they noticed stares from the UO community, and it made them feel uncomfortable.
Ahmed compared the covering of a hijab to the robes of a nun. Both are meant to show modesty and devotion, but are viewed differently.
“Sometimes it’s a struggle in a country where it’s your choice,” Jaquez said. “You’re telling yourself you’re going to identify, not only internally, but externally as a Muslim. You’re letting everybody know.”