Honors students wore Hijabs for a week to learn about Muslim culture

Maham Kahn, a freshman honors student from Midland, is actively educating her peers on her experiences with wearing a Hijab to create a better understanding of Muslim culture and religion.

“I have been wearing (the Hijab) for about a year now,” Kahn said. “For me, it was a personal decision. It was my senior year and I wanted to make it the best year I could. I had been thinking about wearing the head scarf since about freshman year. At that time, I was ready.”

One of the requirements of being in the honors program is that freshmen honors students must complete a Personal Development Project. There are 29 female students who chose to participate in Hijab Week as a part of their project, which took place from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13. Participants in Hijab Week learned about Muslim culture and gained a better understanding of their classmate, Kahn, and her beliefs.

“(By participating in Hijab Week,) I definitely want to gain a new perspective and understand more about what Hijab Week really is,” said freshman Katie Wenban, also from Midland. “I obviously know what I am signing up for but I don’t really know the history and the exact reasons behind it. (I hope) to gain more knowledge on (the Hijab) so when people ask me about it I can share it with them and then more people will know.”

Hijab Week was originally created five years ago by a student in the honors program who was studying religion. There was an informational session before the week started to teach participants how to correctly wrap the Hijab and a reflection session after to go over what was learned during the week. 

This year, Kahn, Alaa Assaf, a freshman from East Lansing, and Mariam Saad, a senior international exchange student from Lebanon, lead the sessions. They are all a part of the Muslim Student Association of CMU and wanted to share their knowledge and experience with participants. 

The three students facilitated the event to teach the honors students how to properly wear the Hijab as well as the meaning behind the head scarf and different aspects of their religion.

“I mostly wear (the Hijab) for modesty,” Assaf said. “It makes me feel like I am going to be treated a little more equally. A lot of guys just go for the pretty girls, so this is a way for them to not judge you for your beauty, but to know you for your mind and how you think, not just for your looks.”

Kahn personally began wearing the Hijab during her senior year of high school as a form of modesty and pride in her religion. She explained that there is not a specific time a Muslim woman is expected to start wearing it. When she knew she was ready, her family and peers were all very supportive of her decision.

“Because Midland was such a small town, I was the only Muslim in my entire grade,” Kahn said. “In my school, there was only one other girl who wore the head scarf.”

Kahn said that she has had mostly positive experiences wearing the Hijab because she is surrounded by supportive people. She hopes that Hijab Week raised awareness of the inaccuracy of different Muslim stereotypes, especially political ones. Kahn remarked that Islam translates to peace, despite what others think.

“It is one thing to see a girl go through (life wearing the Hijab) but to go through it yourself is a different story,” Kahn said before the week began. “They will experience what we experience in our daily lives and see how people interact with them, whether it is positive or negative. Hopefully it will dispel any stereotypes there might be about it.”