By Madison Roche
Female students at Loyola University Chicago wore hijabs Wednesday as a show of support for Islam Awareness Week put on by the Muslim Student Association.
The hijab is a head cover worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty and their Islamic religion. Female students wore colorful hijabs as a sign unity with those participating in the “Walk a Mile in her Hijab” day. Many women received positive reactions to their new accessory.
“Today has been really fun and surprisingly normal which is a great sign. My favorite reaction I got today was when I walked into South Side Market and the Muslim man who works there saw my hijab and said “Assalamu Alaikum,” which is an Arabic greeting meaning peace be upon you, and I didn’t know what to say back. It was so embarrassing. The reaction at school has either been very positive or people just don’t notice or seem to care,” said Chelsea Kuchik, 20, sophomore studying international studies and journalism.
Kuchik was happily surprised not only at the reactions she received but also what she learned throughout the day.
“I’ve gained a much bigger appreciation scarves in this cold weather but on a serious note, learning what these women go through and participating has been a very fun experience. All the girls in the Muslim Student Association were so sweet to me and I was completely welcomed immediately,” Kuchik said.
Unfortunately, other women didn’t have as great of a reaction.
“I really thought this was an interesting experience but I definitely felt like people were treating me differently. People in my classes that know I don’t usually wear a hijab gave me strange looks, strangers interacted with me differently and seemed less warm and more distant. Even the street cleaning guys outside my boyfriends apartment who usually say ‘hi’ to me didn’t even look at me Wednesday morning,” said Leyla Salman, a 20 year-old sophomore studying political science.
“I just wanted to do it because I have a lot of Muslim friends and I think a lot of times people define them by the fact that they wear hijab and group them instead of getting to know the individual person. I wanted to see what it would be like to wear it for a whole day and just demonstrate my belief that hijab isn’t a sign of oppression like many seem to think, but it’s actually a sign of empowerment. It felt really good to stand with fellow women on this one of my friends from home is Muslim and I don’t like seeing someone so outspoken and independent be treated rudely or categorized as being less free than other women,” Salman said.
Participant’s in the “Walk a mile in her hijab” event were encouraged to attend a seminar given by Tehara Ahmad, the Associate University Chaplain at Northwestern University. The seminar focused on how Islam liberates Muslim women.
Members of the Muslim Student Association were happy with the wide range of turnout they had for its events with approximately 60 to 70 men and women showing up at for Ahmad’s presentation.
“I’m extremely impressed with this turn out. We really have a great team and supportive community here at Loyola,” said Yara Shams, secretary of Loyola’s Muslim Student Association.
Islam Awareness Week is continuing with event all around Loyola’s campus including an entertainment night, culmination dinner, and an information booth held in the Centennial Forum Student Union all week. The calendar for events can be found here.