Dian Qu's boyfriend refused to walk with her. Sonia Perez Arias' friend giggled when he saw her and total strangers greeted her on Commonwealth Avenue with the word "Salaam." Anya Gonzales gained what she calls "a new-found respect" for Islam. For Richa Kaul, an initial sense of fear gave way to understanding and confidence.
Qu (CAS'15), Perez Arias (CAS'15), Gonzales (COM'15), Kaul (CAS'16) were among 40 non-Muslim women at BU who volunteered to spend a day wearing headscarves as part of the BU Hijab Day Challenge, one of several events sponsored by the Islamic Society of BU as part of March's Islam Awareness Month.
BU students often cover their heads, with such things as Terrier watch caps, Red Sox baseball caps, and faith-based skullcaps. But there is something about hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women when they are out in public, that can stir emotion, prejudice, and consternation. Wearing hijab—Arabic for "to cover"—some countries, like France, have some restrictions on wearing hijab, and in Turkey it is prohibited in public schools, universities, and government buildings. But here on campus, women in hijab are a familiar sight. Sakina Hassanali (COM'14), president of the Islamic Society, said her headscarf draws notice, but rarely in a negative way. "It's mostly the assumptions people make," she said. "For example, people assume I speak Arabic." In fact, Hassanali is from Tanzania, where the main languages are English and Swahili.