How To Protest Hijab Bans & Support Muslim Women Around The World
Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab face discrimination worldwide, and sometimes, this discrimination is systemic and comes in the form of a hijab ban. After Quebec passed a bill banning some public servants from wearing religious symbols at work, thinking about fighting back can seem overwhelming. But there are a handful of simple ways you can protest hijab bans and support Muslim women— in Quebec and around the world.
Quebec's ban, also known as Bill 21, was passed on June 16 and will impact teachers, police officers, and judges, just to name a few occupations. Although the ban includes all religious symbols, it could disproportionately affect Muslim women, seeing as hijabs are one of the most outward and visible types of religious garb. After the bill passed, Canadian Muslim organizations challenged it in front of the Superior Court, which will make its final decision on July 19. And these organizations aren't the only ones pushing back against the ban.
Malak Shalabi, a law student at Washington University, launched the Hands Off My Hijab campaign on July 11 to urge the Superior Court to reject the bill. "We have a responsibility to stand up and to speak against these laws because our voices are becoming increasingly powerful and increasingly unionized," Shalabi tells Bustle.
Quebec's religious symbol ban is not the first of its kind. France has a long history of banning the hijab and different variations of the hijab, and still has a ban on the niqab. In recent years, Belgium upheld a burka ban, along with other European countries. And even in the United States, a headdress ban on the floor of chambers was lifted after 181 years, only after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar drew attention to it.
As a Muslim woman, it's disheartening to see women in my religion face discrimination because of how they choose to express their faith. If you're enraged by discriminatory bans and want to show your support for Muslim women worldwide, here are six ways you can help.
Before you take a stand against hijab bans, it's important to understand the laws, what they mandate, and who they're directly affecting. This can start by merely understanding the history of the hijab and why it's so important to Muslim women.
"Studying modesty as a concept in Islam enhances one’s understanding of the hijab and its manifestations in forms other than religious wear," Shalabi says. Once you learn about the origins and importance of the hijab, you can be a better advocate for a Muslim woman's right to express her beliefs through it.
Talk To Muslim Women
The only way you can truly understand what Muslim women's lives are like every day is by acknowledging and listening to their real experiences. Reading about statistics on hate crimes against them is one way to gain insight. There are also online publications and blogs such as Muslim Girl that you can read to learn about the lives, struggles, interests, and concerns of Muslim women everywhere.
On top of that, there's a large presence of Muslim fashion bloggers on Instagram. Accounts like @shahdbatal, @hautehijab, and @neelam_ aim to make Muslim women more visible in mainstream and social media and advocate for women's rights. You can follow accounts like these to see how everyday women maneuver wearing the hijab in such digital and public platforms.
Shalabi also suggests talking not only to Muslim women who are affected by hijab bans, but also to ones who are actively fighting against them. "Listen to people who are part of the community who are actively working against this type of stuff," she suggests. "Find women who are working on independent platforms and with networks to actively fight against them, and then help them fight their fight." It's crucial to take lead from the women facing these issues, so you can help their cause without silencing their voices.
Advocate On Social Media
Shalabi explains that the ability to make things go viral holds a lot of power on social media. In fact, that mindset is what helped her build the platform for Hands Off My Hijab. She tweeted out the hashtag (#handsoffmyhijab), voiced her frustrations, and built a community. "Although we can't be there in person, we can most definitely make a statement online and show every Muslim woman and every person who represents a faith that we're behind them," Shalabi says.
By utilizing social media, you can bridge a divide between people in different regions, and help them feel more connected to the same cause. If you need some guidance, there's a plethora of Muslim influencers who use social media to advocate for themselves and their communities, and they are very forthcoming about how they use digital media to spread their message.
Furthermore, if you're looking to protest hijab bans through social media, it's important to have Muslim people and non-Muslim people alike share the message. Ask your friends to retweet your tweets about why you're fighting the ban, and ask them to repost pictures on their stories and pages. The more other people are exposed to your message, the more they'll be curious to learn about what you're fighting for. This eventually, will help you garner a greater following and support system for the movement. And if you keep posting and sharing, odds are, someone with a greater social media presence will follow, and spread your message even farther.
Sign A Petition
Signing a petition is a great way to band people together and create a tangible sense of unity. In fact, Shalabi says she felt a petition was the best course of action for her campaign. The petition asking the Canadian government to reject Bill 21 garnered over 23,000 signatures in a week.
If you want to use a petition to protest a hijab ban in another country, it is important to lay out every detail of the law you're trying to fight. Secondly, it's crucial to link out to articles by reputable sources that demonstrate the relevance of what you're protesting. After that, it's up to you to get your petition to as many people as possible, which you can do through social media. While social media is a great way to spread the message about why something is significant or concerning, coupling it with a petition allows people to read about the issue and then do something about it.
Donate To Orgs That Support Muslim Women
You don't have to start your own movement or campaign to protest hijab bans. There are plenty of organizations you can join that are already fighting everyday discrimination against Muslim women. One of these organizations is World Hijab Day, which was started in 2013. The organization works to raise awareness about why Muslim women wear the hijab and what it means to them. It also encourages those who don't wear the hijab to wear it for a day, in order to experience what it feels like to go out in world as a visible Muslim woman. You can donate to the organization here.
Keep The Conversation Going
Once you've educated yourself, voiced your support on social media, and signed your name, the job still isn't done. "It’s important to keep the conversation going even after signing the petition as cycles of discrimination will come and go," Shalabi advises. "We must remain organized and ready to mobilize to protect the rights of religious groups around the world." Continue educating yourself and listening to others even after the fact, and stay determined should new laws or obstacles arise.
It's difficult not to grow discouraged when it seems like the laws that are meant to protect you are being used against your, but that doesn't mean you should give up. "We, as young people and activists and all kinds of people from around world need to recognize how much our voice matters and our voices collected especially matter and that we have the power to leverage pressure on governments, on politicians, and people committing injustices around the world," Shalabi says. "Hopefully this is only the first step."