The dynamic challenge asks: ‘are you brave enough?’ and was created by URMSA to present a new angle at the annual event in order to break down misconceptions about the religion.
“I think that doing something like the hijab challenge brings awareness to non-Muslim girls to what Muslim girls have to go through in a western society when we have to wear it,” explained recent Islam-convert, Lacey Tourney.
The Hijab Day Challenge fell on Wednesday, Jan. 25, also the one year anniversary of the advent of the Arab spring and in particular the violent Egyptian protests in Cairo’s Tahrir square. The 18-day protest eventually forced out Egypt’s authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and marked an inspiring victory for opressed Muslims worldwide.
“I was surprised that the Arab spring actually even started. Because lots of the countries in the Middle East have been oppressed for so long, like 30 or 40 years. So it is hard to fight that corruption and oppression,” said Taouba Khelifa, president of the university’s UNICEF chapter, who helped URMSA organize the event.
“I was so proud that the people got up and spoke their minds and stood up for justice. The women especially have been the most influential people in the whole revolution and for that I am extremely proud to be a Muslim woman,” said Khelifa.
Women’s highly influential role in organizing and mobilizing the movement caused them to become the target of brutality at the hands of both Mubarak’s army troops and policing forces in Egypt.
When I asked Khelifa for her insight into the complex relationship between women’s rights and Islam, especially in light of the extreme danger woman protesters face in the Middle East, her response was simple.
“To be honest, Islam has given women their rights ever since the religion started. It is human beings that have really taken away women’s rights, so for the women, especially during the Arab spring, to rise up and say ‘this is my religion and I have rights and I am taking them back’ is a huge step because it has always been that human beings have oppressed women from taking their rights back. Now women are taking the active role to bring back what is theirs,” said Khelifa.
Taouba Khelifa poses for a picture. By Madeline Kotzer.