On February 5, the Islamic Center of Naperville celebrated World Hijab Day. The event included vendors and guest speakers. Five women of varying backgrounds and ages shared their stories including their initial experience of first wearing a hijab, finding a sense of identity, and gaining the confidence and perseverance they embodied which they each attributed in their own way as a strengthened relationship with God.
Lena Tleib is the regional development specialist at Zakat Foundation of America. Community recreational activities and short spiritual discussions piqued Tleib’s curiosity about the hijab and inspired her to start wearing it. She is now involved in community engagement and works to inspire other girls to have a better understanding of their Islamic identity.
At the event, Eugenia Gooch shared her story of converting to Islam around four years ago after visiting the Islamic Center of Naperville. As a single mom and small business owner, Gooch shared the internal dialogue she had about her hopes, hesitation, and commitment to wearing the hijab.
The third panelist was Bushra Amiwala, the youngest Muslim elected official in the United States. She currently holds an elected seat on the Skokie school board of education. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Indo-American Democratic Organization (IADO), GenerationVote, Women Empowering Women in Illinois Legislation (WeWill), and SheVotesIL. At the event she shared that wearing the hijab didn’t interfere with her pursuing her dreams, rather it helper her represent her community.
Itedal Shalabi is the co-founder and executive director of Arab American Family Services, which serves over 30 communities in the south suburban Chicagoland area. Their work provides a number of services including domestic violence prevention and intervention, immigration services, and mental health assistance. Shalabi shared her experience of wearing the hijab before and after 9/11.
The last speaker was high school sophomore Zoya Shaikh. She began wearing the hijab this past fall. After a few weeks of wearing it, she experienced Islamophobic remarks from a staff member at her school. She shared how she used this experience to improve the district’s culture sensitivity and bystander support trainings.
The World Hijab Day organization is a nonprofit dedicated to dismantling the negative narrative about Muslim women and hijabs.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
photo courtesy: Kader Sakkaria
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