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Image: World Hijab Day Founder. Nazma Khan, invited to a speech and group dialogue with the Holocaust Survivors.
Image: World Hijab Day Founder. Nazma Khan, invited to a speech and group dialogue with the Holocaust Survivors.

February 1st, 2013,  marked the first annual World Hijab Day (WHD) in recognition of millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty.

The brainchild of this movement is a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the hijab for one day.

For many people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression and segregation. By opening up new pathways to understanding, Nazma hopes to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab.

Nazma knows exactly what she’s talking about. The social activist came to this country from Bangladesh at the tender age of eleven where she found herself being the only hijabi in middle school. She remembers her experience as a difficult one.

“Growing up in the Bronx, in NYC, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab, ‘she reflects. ‘In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’. When I entered University after 9/11, I was called Osama bin laden or terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.”

WHD has thousands of volunteers worldwide and 70+ WHD Ambassadors from over 45 countries. WHD Ambassadors come from all walks of life from a high school student to a Congresswoman in the Philippines. Last year alone, 150 countries partook in WHD. In addition to that, WHD has been endorsed by many world renowned individuals including scholars, politicians, and celebrities worldwide. WHD was covered in mainstream news media including New York Times, BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Huffington Post, etc to name a few. Recently, Time Magazine listed World Hijab Day in their world calendar, The Year Ahead 2017. It is estimated 190 countries will take part in WHD’17.

New York State assemblyman David Weprin issued an endorsement of World Hijab Day stating: “With hate crimes against Muslim-Americans tripling in 2016, it is important we take this moment to stand together with our fellow Americans on World Hijab Day. Rooted in the American principles of religious freedom and liberty, the World Hijab Day movement seeks to end the discrimination and judgment that comes with wearing a hijab.”