By Norma Hernandez
Hijab-wearing students experienced Muslim culture at the CSU Bakersfield Hijab Challenge, held on Feb. 1 2018.
The Muslim Student Association let students and staff experience what it was like to be Muslim, in the hopes of educating CSUB students. Fatma Ali, a junior psychology major, is the MSA President and oversaw the event.
“The Hijab Challenge is basically an opportunity for people to experience what Muslim women who wear the hijab experience. So, they [participants] get to wear it for the day and see how they’re treated,” said Ali.
The challenge was meant to be a fun experience because participants met MSA club members who helped the students put on their hijabs.
Ali said there was much more to it. The MSA wanted people to understand the jaw dropping truth of what could be experienced by simply wearing a scarf on one’s head.
“The biggest misconception [about Muslim women who wear hijabs] is that we’re oppressed, that we’re submissive, that we need help, that we’re terrorists, [and] uneducated,” said Ali.
Hijabs are worn for religious reasons and women who choose to wear them have to abide by certain rules. They shouldn’t show their hair to any man who isn’t in their family. Only family and women can see their hair. Muslim men also have their own set of rules as well.
The majority of the participants in the Hijab Challenge were students, and some of their intentions were to spread awareness of the cause.
“This is my first time and I want bring more awareness and break down the stigmas and stereotypes,” said Josefina Mendoza, junior psychology major.
Anyone could get harassed at any time of the day, but it is more likely when wearing a hijab.
Ali said that it is very common for Muslim women who wear hijabs to be called terrorists. She was called a terrorist at a Target here in Bakersfield.
“I was waiting in line and then this old lady behind me was just staring at me, and at first I thought ‘oh maybe she’s just looking at my hijab because it was floral and maybe it caught her eye,’ but then she [asked me] ‘Why are you a terrorist?’,” said Ali.
This was Ali’s first time being called a terrorist and it devastated her. This challenge is personal to her and Ali hopes it makes people feel more empathetic towards Muslim women.
“We should celebrate each other. We should celebrate our differences instead of trying to fight each other. You get more with love. You survive more with love,” said Renee Blakes, a senior majoring in theater of arts and one of the participants in the Hijab Challenge.
Kaytlin Beedie, senior religious studies major, said that she gets very upset on how the state of society is and she doesn’t like the things she has seen towards Muslims.
“Wearing and participating in this promotes education and reduces the ignorance that is really prevalent in our society regarding Muslim practices and Islam as a religion and I really want to normalize it,” said Beedie.
Students also participated in the challenge because certain professors were offering it as extra credit. The extra credit led to including more people in the experience that they probably wouldn’t have had if their professors hadn’t assigned it.
The MSA hosted a reception the same day of the Hijab Challenge so that participants could go and talk about what they experienced.
“The event went really well, we had around 100 people that attended,” said Ali.
Professors and students went to the reception to share their stories and the MSA club was happy with the turnout they had.