Today, I went out into the world wearing a hijab, a Muslim headscarf. A few years ago a Bangladeshi-American woman started World Hijab Day. I first heard about it through the Council on American-Islamic Relations which encouraged non-Muslim women to wear the hijab for one day, both to share in the experience and as an act of solidarity.
I decided to participate in World Hijab Day for two reasons. First, I believe in freedom of religion. I believe that Muslims have every right to practice their religion in this country and should not be discriminated against, because of their religion. Let me be clear what I mean by freedom of religion. I believe the constitution gives Americans the rights to practice their religion as individuals and as groups. I do not believe that the constitution gives anyone the right to try and impose their religious beliefs on people outside their group. If a particular religious group does not believe in marriage equality, it is their right to not marry members of their religious group who are of the same gender. It is not their right though to tell other religious groups and individuals outside their group that they can not or should not do so. If a particular religious group believes that abortion is a sin, it is their right to tell the members of their group not to have an abortion. It is not their right to force people outside of their group to not have an abortion. We live in a pluralistic society with people of many faiths and nonbelievers, freedom of religion does not give members of one religion the right to impose their views on people outside their group. It does however give Muslim women the right to wear a hijab in public without being harassed.
Second, I wore a hijab today, because I believe women have the right to care for their bodies and present their bodies in whatever way they feel best as individuals. Control over female bodies, either through law or social pressure, is a major issue in this country. It happens on a spectrum, with seemingly minor issues like plucking eyebrows and shaving at one end and abortion on the other end, and a whole ton of issues, including wearing the hijab, in between.
More than anything, I wore the hijab today to show my solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers in our faith in God. The more I learn about Islam, the more I believe it is a beautiful religion, encouraging people to live lives of faith and prayer and charity, and I want to thank them for inviting me to share in their tradition.