Young Muslim Women Talk About What The Hijab Means To Them

"No, I'm not deprived or oppressed."

Last year, a BuzzFeed video showing women wearing hijab for a day went viral, amassing more than seven million views. In the video, the women first shared their thoughts about the headscarf as a symbol of oppression and a tool of the patriarchy, then are put to the test, donning the hijab for a day as they go about their daily routines. At the end of their daylong experiment, the women talk about their experiences in what is supposed to be a change of heart about the hijab.

Although it was meant to show solidarity and understanding with Muslim women, many hijabi-wearing women took issue with the fact that it fell to non-Muslims to speak about the controversial clothing piece instead of the women who wear it day in and day out.

"Suddenly their experience overshadowed ours," said one young hijabi-wearing woman, Sohyla, in a video conceived by two Muslim students at Rutgers University. "People are always saying Muslim women are not speaking up or they're oppressed — well, it's because we never have a platform to speak." 

Making space to voice their experiences is exactly what the students, Hamna Saleem and Dina Sayedahmed, intended to do after seeing the BuzzFeed video. 

"These women don't go to their job interviews with hijab on; they don't go to class with it; they don't have to move into new neighborhoods wearing it and have to convince people that they're 'normal,'" Sayedahmed said.

So they decided to film interviews with their own hijabi-wearing friends, and it got passed along to photojournalist Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur, who made a video for the New York Times titled "Listening to Voices From Hijabi World.'"

Some talk about how wearing hijab changed them for the better.

And dispel the idea that they're oppressed in some way.

And like everyone else, sometimes there are bad hijab days, too.

The hijab has in recent years become a controversial topic. The argument that it is a symbol of oppression and Muslim women who say otherwise are too deeply entrenched in a patriarchal mindset is one made by many feminists, secularists, and Christians alike.

Considering the conversation about the headscarf is often done without the input and perspective of the women who wear them, the amplification of their voices, as in this video, is not only a valuable part of the discussion, it's also incredibly necessary.

Watch the full video here: