Speaking of their experiences wearing the hijab, the pressures hijabi women face in the United States to compromise their identity and the unique significance it carries in their own lives were several hijabi women who spoke as part of the second annual Hijabi Monologues commenced Friday night in the packed Rackham Amphitheatre.
LSA sophomore Ayah Kutmah, co-coordinator of Hijabi Monologues, said the annual event was created last year after the presidential election to combat a surge in hate crimes against Muslim women.
“Last year was much more reactionary in a sense that as we did it specifically in response to Trump and the increase in hate crimes, but this year, not to say that the hate crimes and Islamophobia doesn’t exist, it was a continuation of giving people voices,” Kutmah said.
Some of the speakers spoke of the insensitive comments they’ve received in their hometowns and the Ann Arbor community, and how even in a progressive city, Islamophobia still occurs. Other women spoke about their decision to wear the hijab and how their encounters with the community were modified.
LSA junior Alyiah Al-Bonijim, fellow co-coordinator of Hijabi Monologues, said she hopes people will walk away from the event with a greater understanding of the complexities of being a hijabi woman.
“I think the main takeaway from the event is the nuances every hijabi women has in her experiences wearing the hijab, as well as what led her to wear the hijab,” Al-Bonijim said. “Because even in the narrative of Hijabi women, it tends to be homogenous, where it doesn’t take into account our various identities, that influence why we wear it.”
LSA freshman Nada Eldawy explained she came to the event partly because of her sister’s recent decision to wear the hijab.
“It was really nice to come and hear people’s personal narratives, because I feel like there’s a story that’s always spread about the hijab as oppressive, and I liked hearing people challenge that stereotype,” she said. “Especially because my sister recently started wearing the hijab and it was nice to hear people who had similar stories to her, and that it doesn’t have to be a stigma.”
University alum Tina Al-khersan spoke at the event, and explained how she just recently decided to wear the hijab.
“I just started wearing the hijab less than a year ago and I wanted to emphasize that the people thinking about hijab aren’t just the people wearing it,” she said. “It’s a more nuanced story. The hijab is a process, it’s not an end destination.”
Kutmah, who was also a speaker, emphasized the courage and bravery of all women in the Muslim community.
“It always impresses me seeing the hijabi Muslim women with their agency and strength,” Kutmah said. “Hearing these powerful women giving their own story their own way, in their reflection of how they choose to adopt the religion.”
The event was a space for hijabi women to explain their experience in having their appearance made into political, social and religious controversy. Al-khersan explained this made the occasion exceptionally memorable and significant.
“I think it’s really rare when Muslim women have the opportunity to share their experience in such a raw and honest way,” she said. “You can always gain something from listening to other perspectives, and we’re a minority, so how often do you get to do that?”