Since 2013, people of all faiths have come together to recognize February 1st as World Hijab Day. Founded by Nazma Khan, the day supports the right of Muslim women to wear the headscarf or “hijab” in observance of Islam. The U.S. Constitution and civil rights laws protect everyone's rights to practice his or her faith, whether it be through prayer, religious study, or wearing religious garb. Our highest laws defend American Muslims from discrimination and harassment targeting their faith. These laws extend from the schoolyard, to the workplace, to areas of public accommodations. No matter how strong our laws, we know that Muslims in America are experiencing harassment, discrimination, and even violent hate crimes.
In schools: A recent report from CAIR California showed that 29% of Muslim students who wear headscarves have experienced offensive physical interaction. This includes, but is not limited to, pulling someone's hijab. Shockingly, 27% of Muslim students have experienced discrimination coming from their own teachers. We affirm that no student should feel threatened just because he or she wears a religious garb. We further affirm that no student should feel afraid of being physically or verbally abused because of his or her religion.
In the workplace: The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire candidates based on religion. Despite these prohibitions, discrimination against women wearing the hijab has lead to major litigation against giants like Abercrombie & Fitch and Disneyland. In the former case, the matter was heard in the U.S. Supreme Court after a Muslim woman was refused a job because of her choice to wear a hijab. The result of this case made it clear that businesses must create a safe environment for all people regardless of “race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.”
Public Places: According to the FBI, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by a striking 67% nationwide. Incidents of harassment and violence have occurred in public places such as grocery stores, parks, and on transportation. Regardless of venue, a Muslim woman is always legally protected to wear the hijab and deserves to feel safe.
Civil rights should never be selective or subjective; rather, they must encompass and protect everyone equally. Attempts to infringe upon these rights will undoubtedly face legal and social repercussions. It is more important now than ever to raise awareness about the rights of Muslim women, and by extension, of all people. February 1st, World Hijab Day, is an affirmation of these truths and our month long campaign is dedicated to hold intact the right of religious freedom for all peoples.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Aligned with its mission, the NY chapter of CAIR works diligently to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.