The Muslim Student Association took part in Global Pink Hijab Day to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research last Wednesday. In the afternoon, MSA members sold cupcakes, brownies, burgers, ribbons, pins, and pink hijabs outside of the Student Centre.
UTM Muslim women wore pink hijabs (headscarves). Other participants were asked to wear any piece of pink clothing, such as pashmina scarves, shirts, or ties, to show their support.
“There are two goals for Pink Hijab Day,” said Ruqayyah Ahdab, the senior advisor of the MSA. “The first is to educate people; the scarf is a means of awareness. The second goal is to dismiss misconceptions about the hijab.”
After buying a cupcake, donating money, or trying on a hijab, both male and female students were asked to sign a fluorescent pink “Pledge for Prevention” board. The pledge was to remember to check for breast cancer and to raise awareness among friends and family.
“It’s not just a feel-good event—we want people to do something,” said Ahdab. “For a lot of UTM students, health is on the backburner. We hope to remind those people to take care of themselves”.
The second goal of MSA’s Pink Hijab day is part of an ongoing campaign at UTM.
“There is a lot of ignorance about people who wear hijab at UTM, but not necessarily stereotypes,” said Ahdab. “The stereotypes are mainly due to the media. What you see there are anomalies and extremists.”
“There are some people that have never spoken to a woman who wears a hijab. It’s shocking,” said Ahdab.
Ahdab explained that the hijab is both a physical barrier and a psychological one. As a physical barrier, it can be positive or negative. Pink Hijab Day seeks to make it positive by standing out and making the wearer approachable. The psychological barrier is mostly unconscious, but, said Ahdab, “With a little bit of knowledge, a lot of things open up.”
Pink Hijab Day began in 2006 when Hend El-Buri, a freshman at Missouri University, started a Facebook event for her and her friends. El-Buri started the event as a way to break the religious and cultural barrier between her and her peers.
Breast cancer research organically attached itself to El-Buri’s cause, since they share two key components: being personal to women and being surrounded by misconceptions and ignorance, which she also experienced with the hijab.
The event grew in popularity and in 2009 went global. Now, universities around the world—including in Canada, England, Nigeria, Spain, UAE, South Africa, Trinidad, Egypt, and Qatar—take part in Pink Hijab Day.