Finnish Muslimahs come together to raise hijab awareness

A group of ambitious young women started Hijabiksi, a youth project to reduce societal fears surrounding the hijab.

We call ourselves Northern Hijabees and we are originally from all corners of the world, which enrich us as human beings and also the project. There are 24 of us – between the ages of 15 and 29 years – working on this project, and we come from different backgrounds: Somalian, Kurdish, Iraqi, Turkish, Palestinian and Albanian, just to name a few. There are two native Finnish girls in our group, and only a few of us were born in Finland, while the rest of us moved here when we were little. Most of us go to school and some of us work.

Some of us wear hijab and some do not, but we all share the same love for Allah. We have had both happy and tearful moments, and these have made us stronger and closer as friends and as sisters in Islam.

For many years, we have been active in various activities. We organise sports events, iftars and movie nights; we go camping and have regular weekly dars, or Islamic lessons. And these are some serious but funny questions that people have asked us:

1. Do you sleep with your hijab on?
2. Do you take showers with your hijab on?
3. Can you smile while wearing hijab?
4. Are you Arab, because of that hijab?
5. Are you covering your bald head with your hijab?
6. Can you hear me when I’m talking?

We wondered, “Why is the place we grew up in so discriminatory against foreigners and especially against Muslim women wearing hijab?” Even with more and more native Finnish people who convert to Islam and wear the hijab, they also experience this discrimination. Why do many non-Muslims think that the hijab issue is taboo or that it violates women’s rights? We want to be able to have conversations with non-Muslims about this. We want to do something about it; to speak our mind and be heard.

It all started when an employee from the Centre of International Mobility (CIMO), an agency partly funded by the government, noticed our active participation in the Finnish community. He encouraged us to take part in the European Union Youth in Action programme, which supports projects offering non-formal local or international learning opportunities for and with young people.

We arranged a training session with the CIMO, where we discussed Muslim women’s position in our city of Turku. We came to the agreement that there is a lot of prejudice against foreigners, and especially against Muslim women. That was when we started the application for the Hijabiksi project, which was accepted in November last year.

Hijabiksi is a combination of the word “hijab” and “-iksi”, which in Finnish means “to become something”. Combined, these two words represents someone who wears the hijab. The Hijabiksi project aims to break the prejudice towards headscarves by raising people’s awareness of hijab.

We are organising, inshallah, an outdoor event in Turku city centre on 7 June, where we will assemble a tent with a small photo booth. Passers-by may ask questions, try on the hijab and take a picture of themselves wearing one. A gallery is planned for 18th June of the pictures taken during the event.

We want to speak about our own approach to life and bring out our own identity. We hope that our project will inspire other Muslims, especially girls. We hope to not only increase awareness of hijab, but also to create social cohesion in the society and between different cultures. The intention is not to change anyone’s opinion but to increase understanding and tolerance, and encourage a more open-minded view of the world.

Read about our daily experiences as hijabis in Finland on our Hijabiksi blog.

By Kochar Mahmoodi.