Religion is displayed in many forms, through the media, traditions and physical characteristics, perhaps most notably in clothing.
The hijab scarf is a traditional piece of clothing used by Muslim women and men to practice modesty and submission to Allah, or God, as stated in the Koran.
As a country that has gone through the horrors of 9/11, America, as a nation, has come to associate much with the traditional wear of Muslims. The hijab in particular has come under fire many times via social media and in real life due to its heavy association with radical Islam and Islamophobia.
“The hijab scarf has, in a sense, become a symbol for Islam and for Muslims,” Loren Lybarger, an associate professor of classics and world religions with a specialty in Islamic studies, said. “Oftentimes it has become a focal point of anti-Muslim backlash.”
Lybarger graduated with a doctorate in religion studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School and spent time in the Middle East studying Islam.
“The decision and the politics around the scarf are highly contested and debated among Muslims themselves and Muslim women,” Lybarger said. “Muslims express their relationship to Islam in many different ways, (therefore) women don’t have to wear a scarf in order to be Muslim”.
Despite the present stereotypes existing on the connection between radical Islam and choice of dress wear, hijabs and other similar types of Muslim attire have become more acceptable into modern day culture.
“I am personally not a hijabi, but World Hijab Day, for me, is a good way to show solidarity to Muslims and hijab-wearing Muslims,” Adjei Nyua, a member of the Muslim Student Association and an OU graduate student, said. “People tend to judge others for what they are wearing and we, as women, endure that on a daily basis”.
All over the globe, Muslim women are taking steps to show that the hijab isn’t a symbol of aggression and violence, but self-humility and commitment.
American fencer became the first Muslim woman to compete and win a bronze medal while wearing a hijab. Soon after the 2016 Summer Olympics, worldwide sportswear manufacturer Nike began a mass sale of a pro athletic hijabs designed for female Muslim athletes.
Social media and fashion have also become major platforms for exposure for Muslim women.
Canadian Youtuber uses her platform as a makeup and beauty vlogger to help disrupt the stigma surrounding Muslim women. IMG model has become highly sought-after with major fashion labels as her traditional, yet unique style of the hijab draws attention on a global runway.
Although the outside appearance of the scarf says much, the hijab scarf in itself is only a physical representation of the what the hijab embodies.
“The hijab scarf is, for Muslims, a way to worship God,” Aizah Muhammad, a junior studying political science with a minor in Islamic studies, said. “You can be modest and not dress modestly, because the hijab itself is a reflection of who you are, who you choose to be, as a person.”