Activist and student Rana Abdelhamid hopes to dispel common misconceptions about the hijab -- a highly-politicized head covering worn by some Muslim women -- with her Tumblr and Facebook page "Hijabis of New York."
In the face of rising Islamophobia and intolerance of Muslim Americans, Abdelhamid started the project with several fellow activists in October 2014 in order "to raise awareness, to humanize and diversify the image that people have of Muslim women,” Abdelhamid, 22, told The Huffington Post. Abdelhamid based her idea off the popular "Humans of New York" blog and social media project that celebrates the city's diversity through photos and interviews.
When she approaches "hijabis," or women who wear the hijab, with questions about faith and identity, Abdelhamid said she often finds that "women want to talk about this stuff." The challenge, she said, is creating safe spaces and platforms for them to do so.
One young woman who started wearing the hijab four months prior to the interview reflected:
Universal topics like identity, health, career and family come up as well. One of the most popular posts ever, Abdelhamid said, had to do with the sexualization of women. "It showed the frustration women face because of patriarchal standards, which I think can resonate with any woman," said Abdelhamid, who is currently working toward a Master of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
The project is personal for Abdelhamid. When she was 16 years old, she told HuffPost, a man approached her on a New York street and attempted to remove her hijab. The "disturbing" experience lead Abdelhamid to start a self-defense and leadership program, called the Women's Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), for young Muslim women in New York City.
Hijabis of New York is run by women under the auspices of WISE, and for both initiatives it makes a big difference that the people behind them are Muslim women, Abdelhamid said.
"There's something to it when [Muslim women are] leading our own empowerment movement,"Abdelhamid said.
Abdelhamid recently took Hijabis of New York to Madrid, Spain when she went to lead a WISE workshop. She plans to visit London next and said she hopes to continue sharing stories from Muslim women she meets around the globe.
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