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U. Wisconsin-Madison hosts ‘Hijabi for a Day’ event; some call it ‘cultural appropriation’

The University of Wisconsin-Madison held a “Hijabi for a Day” this past Wednesday, the goal of which was “to normalize the hijab on [the] predominantly white campus.”

According to The Daily Cardinal, the Wisconsin Union Directorate Global Connections and campus Muslim Student Union got the idea after “they saw the project conducted nationwide by organizations such as BuzzFeed.”

In a presentation, the MSA’s Noor Hammad noted “hijabs are worn by individuals who wish to be modest, showcase their internal beauty and also for spiritual purposes.”

Another goal of the groups was to “eliminate the connotation of oppression that many people have with hijabs.”

From the article:

UW-Madison freshman volunteer Buruj Mohammed said participants told her about some negative comments they received, but had mostly positive feedback about their experience.

“It was important for us to be there so we could help people feel confident about their decision to wear the scarf and to know that there’s someone who has experience with wearing the scarf,” Mohammed said.

MORE: Citadel says ‘no’ to prospective Muslim cadet’s request to wear hijab

Mohammed said the event was important because it raised awareness of and showed solidarity with Muslim women. UW-Madison sophomore Kaitlynne Roling echoed this and said she hoped participating in Hijabi for a Day would stimulate conversations among her peers.

“I did it so I could understand what my Muslim brothers and sisters go through on a day to day basis,” Roling said. “I would love to form another way to communicate with my peers on their experiences and be an ally.”

Against her expectations, Ms. Roling noted she experienced nothing “negative” during the day. Whoa — how can that be? Haven’t we been told Islamophobia is virtually an epidemic in the US?

Heat Street reports that some felt the hijab event was “cultural appropriation”:

“[…] Farhat Bhuiyan, one of the event’s organizers, said that two or three students claimed it was cultural appropriation, while four more expressed worries that participating could be offensive or ‘problematic.’”

Bhuiyan countered that Islam isn’t a culture, it’s a religion, and as such “does not associate with any one culture.”

It’s interesting that the MSA and WUDGC got the idea for the event from BuzzFeed considering that BF reporter Kate Arthur wrote a controversial piece this week on HGTV hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines’ church. Perhaps Arthur’s next piece could ask how Muslims feel about this hijab event being open to “all genders and identities.”

Read the full Daily Cardinal and Heat Street articles.

MORE: NY school follows US DOE advice and hosts ‘Hijab Day’; parents irate

MORE: Hijab-wearing Christian prof promoting culture of oppression: Muslim reformers

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.