Hijab Tourism Redux: World Hijab Day Edition

Sigh. IT’S BACK.

World Hijab Day, started last year, is back this Saturday for round two. The event was started by a Muslim woman (and hijabi) Nazma Khan as a way to foster better understanding by encouraging non-Muslims to “walk a mile in the shoes of a hijabi.” Nazma has spoken about what she went through wearing hijab and why she started World Hijab Day (video). I empathise with her experiences, which were horrific, and I understand the impulse to respond by saying “If you’d only try it for yourself you’d understand!” But with all due respect to Nazma and what she’s accomplished, I strongly and fundamentally disagree with the entire premise of World Hijab Day.

I wrote about hijab tourism last year and pointed out a lot of the colonialist underpinnings to the exercise, but that post was mainly focused on the habit of journalists trying on hijab or niqab so they can write offensive articles about it. World Hijab Day is a bit different. It encourages non-Muslim women to try out hijab purely for the sake of experiencing it. Many of these women will never go on to write about it, but I still find the entire premise problematic and deeply discomforting. Continue reading