WIT to mark World Hijab Day with cultural event

There will be an opportunity for people to try on a hijab and to chat with local Muslim women at Waterford Institute of Technology next month.

Dr Rachel Woodlock who will be speaking at WIT.

The Religious Studies and Theology Group at WIT have organised a cultural event to mark World Hijab Day on Wednesday, February 1.

There will be an assortment of hijabs on display, and the Muslim women will be happy to show anyone how to wear a hijab and the different styles available.

WIT student union president, Michelle Byrne, will be among the women invited to visit the stall and try on a headscarf.

World Hijab Day, an annual world event, was established by American Nazma Khan in 2013 to fight prejudice and discrimination against Muslim women.

WIT lecturer in world religions, Colette Colfer, said some students will wear the hijab for the day.

“With increasing anti-immigrant sentiment around the world, it is really important to have an event like this,” she said.

Ms Colfer is not a Muslim but has conducted a lot of research on Islam in Ireland.

“Muslim women are far more likely to experience discrimination and prejudice if they are wearing the hijab. I know Irish women who have been told to go back to ‘their own country’ when they have been wearing a hijab,” said Ms Colfer.

“Their abusers were shocked when they responded in an Irish accent.”

Muslim women choose to wear the hijab for a variety of reasons, including modesty, but most agree it is a woman’s choice whether or not she wears it.

Ms Colfer said some Muslim women believe that although the principles of modesty are clearly outlined in the Quran, they perceive the wearing of the headscarf as a cultural interpretation of the scriptures.

“They would interpret what is said in the Quran as meaning that they should cover and they should be modest.”

Speakers in the main auditorium on the day will include Muslim feminist and academic, Dr Rachel Woodlock; local Muslim convert Brigid Aylward; and Muslim businesswoman and photographer, Bara Alich.

Dr Woodlock, originally from Australia, is a convert to Islam from the Baha’i faith. She now lives near Clonmel with her Tipperary husband and their daughter.

Ms Aylward is from Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny. She converted to Islam from Catholicism about eight years ago and after two years decided to wear the hijab.

She works as a nurse in the Paediatric Department in Waterford Regional Hospital. Last year she was awarded a master’s degree in nursing from WIT.

Ms Alich, originally from the Czech Republic, converted to Islam eight years ago. She will speak about being a Muslim businesswoman who wears the hijab and some of the challenges she has faced over the years.

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