A cultural experiment created to promote awareness about the Islamic faith returned to CMU’s campus this week.
The project, called “Hijab Week: An Experiment in Cultural Immersion,” has been put together by students in the department of religion and philosophy, as well as the CMU Honors Program, for the second year in a row. Amanda Jaczkowski, Hijab Week coordinator and Clinton Township junior, said there are 25 students participating— the same amount as last year.
Students participating in Hijab Week adopt the wearing of the hijab, a headdress covering the hair and neck traditionally worn by Muslim women in daily life. Some of the students also adopt other practices associated with holy living in Islam, such as modest dress and abstaining from alcohol.
Jaczkowski said her sister helped her come up with the idea of Hijab Week last year as she attended a class about Islam and made plans for a project in the Honors Program. The goal of the project, Jaczkowski said, is to help spread awareness about the perception of Muslims in the American public.
“We want to stress that for Muslim women in the United States, wearing the hijab is a choice,” Jaczkowski said. “It is an outward symbol of an inner commitment.”
Many of the students participating in Hijab Week are involved as part of their personal development projects for HON 100, the introductory class in the Honors Program.
Bay City freshman Hannah Foley, one of the Honors students participating, said she felt she gained a further understanding of what Muslims face every day in America.
“With all the stigma surrounding Islamic culture, it’s very different to see what it’s like from an inside perspective,” Foley said.
Cadillac freshman Natasha Gabara agreed and recounted incidences during the week where she could notice stares from strangers.
“It’s teaching me to empathize with women in the Muslim culture,” Gabara said. “You get a lot of awkward staring.”
Some differences for Hijab Week participants were even more unexpected and difficult to interpret, such as those experienced by Livonia freshman Ally Hermann.
“I get the door held open for me more often,” Hermann said. “I was not expecting that at all. People stare at me more, but you also get a lot of people smiling when you look their way.”
Jaczkowski said she has received positive feedback about the event from Muslim students.
“A lot of my Muslim friends have been tweeting about it,” Jaczkowski said. “They were really excited students were doing this. Some international students have even been calling their families back home to tell them about what we’re doing.”