Ruman Sadiq says the current political climate has led to misperceptions of Muslim women.
That’s why she hopes a new six-week billboard campaign will encourage people to call and ask questions about the hijab, or head scarf.
"It's very difficult at times for Muslim women to go out in public wearing a veil,” said Sadiq, an outreach volunteer with the Dallas Chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America. “We face a lot of discrimination in educational institutions, in the supermarkets and public arenas."
The billboard – at Interstate 35 and Northwest Highway in Dallas – features a woman wearing a hijab, along with a 1-800 number and the words: respect, honor and strength. The Islamic Circle partnered with a Chicago-area based group GainPeace to place the billboard in Dallas. Other billboards have gone up across the country, including Houston and Chicago.
The groups want to show that the hijab is a sign of empowerment and that women of other religions also cover their heads. They point to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who wore a veil, and nuns.
“It is also a form of liberation from strangers who dictate how women should dress in the society to be successful,” Sadiq said. “It’s to free us ourselves from being judged by our physical beauty, but rather our intellect and our character. It’s to preserve our modesty.”
The billboard is already drawing attention and phone calls. Sadiq talked about an hour-long phone call the group received from an angry caller, who was upset about the billboard.
“It was a 62-minute dialogue that we had with her and it ended on a very positive note,” Sadiq said. “She was very happy to clarify the misconceptions she had about the veil.”
Earlier this month, local Muslim women set up a table with information about Islam and the hijab at Klyde Warren Park. They also had various hijabs in different colors that women could try on.
“Senior students from Taguig National High School in the Philippines join #WorldHijabDay 2019 and wear headscarves for a day in solidarity with Muslim women and girls.” [International Alert Philippines] pic.twitter.com/62F7N8lOzu
— World HijabDay (@WorldHijabDay) February 20, 2019
Nahela Morales, also with the Islamic Circle, said women have a choice to wear a hijab and some choose the cover their entire face, except for their eyes.
“There’s no oppression on both as the Koran tells us there’s no compulsion in religion,” she said. “So, we do choose to even wear the head scarf. There’s women that do not wear the head scarf and that’s an individual process.”
Morales and Sadiq said people should appreciate the similarities in all religions, rather than be bothered by the differences.
“We teach English to students from all over the world at a large urban high school. We are participating as Christian women that want to show our honor and love for our Muslim students.”-Maureen, USA#WorldHijabDay #FreeInHijab pic.twitter.com/2G01sRjpAJ
— World HijabDay (@WorldHijabDay) February 15, 2019