MISS KNOW-IT-ALL: 'Experience Hijab' offered insight to participants
Lauren Chapman is a senior journalism news and telecommunications major and writes ‘Miss Know-It-All’ for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On April 7, I tried to figure out what hair style would work best for the Muslim Student Association's Experience Hijab event, which offered people the opportunity to wear a hijab in the Atrium.
Muslim Student Association President Mahnoor Ayesha helped tuck my insanely fluffy hair into the fushia scarf I picked out.
Ayesha asked me what I noticed was different about my appearance. My already big, blue eyes were framed by my glasses. I didn't notice until later, my smile looked bigger without my hair framing my face.
She explained the importance of ahijab for her. Instead of being a source of oppression, her scarf serves as a check for modesty and highlights the importance of her ideas instead of her beauty. Ayesha said people had to listen to her words, instead of focusing on just her appearance.
Clad in my hot pink scarf, I went out into the world by hanging out in the Arts and Journalism building for the next few hours.
Even running up stairs, I noticed people looking at me a little longer. I thought there was no way a piece of fabric impacted my appearance that much. I'm still a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman.
I thought that, until I ran into one of my classmates from my earlier class. He and I had interacted, briefly debating the source of political polarization in Indiana.
When I walked past him, he didn't make eye contact with me.
Initially, I thought it was weird. But it started to open up some bigger questions for me. I decided to do an experiment — I was going to go in public with my hijab and take note of the differences I noticed.
What I discovered was a mix of changes with not only my attitude, but also those around me.
I hopped on a shuttle bus to the commuter lot. As soon as I stepped on the bus, I was stared at by four of the five people on the bus. The fifth person was a man with his headphones on who probably wouldn't have noticed if President Barack Obama had stepped onto the bus.
Using journalism as my excuse, I went to the Muncie Mall to find the next book in a graphic novel series I'm reading. Browsing Books-A-Million, people glanced my direction. Half of them were probably staring because of my scarf, half were probably staring because I'm white and wearing a hijab.
During my shopping adventure, no cashier asked me if I wanted to sign up for a rewards card. Bath and Body Works was the only place where someone asked me if I needed any assistance finding something.
However, the most significant change was in me. I stood up a little taller. I smiled at every person who looked at me. I felt more confident.
I put the same care and consideration into my appearance that I did for Easter Mass just a few days ago. I went to class today with my hair in a ponytail. With my hijab, instead of feeling like a scrub, I felt kind of beautiful.
A lot of the things Ayesha described paralleled my own feelings.
But there was a surprising amount of insecurity. I felt insincere wearing a hijab and not practicing the same faith the tradition comes from. I'm a Roman Catholic, and while some older members of my parish will cover their heads for special Masses, I felt like a pretender.
Whether or not I am Muslim, wearing a hijab made me a representative for the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. So, I smiled more.
I got to experience hijab. Ayesha humanized hijab for me.
The Muslim Student Association has events all week for Islam Awareness Week. Check them out. You don't learn anything about diversity by staring at someone on the shuttle bus or ignoring them in the hallway.