Diversity is more than just skin deep, which Women of Toledo demonstrated on Thursday, Feb. 1 in celebration of World Hijab Day by discussing the uniqueness of head wrapping.
About 85 people attended the Success Stories Panel Forum at 5 p.m. at the West Toledo Branch Public Library as part of Women of Toledo’s Educational Initiatives program.
According to the event website, the program offers community-based knowledge, stories and information about local leaders overcoming their barriers and challenges in life.
Zarinah Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped and a panelist at the event, is one of these community leaders.
During the panel discussion, she spoke on the history of head wrapping and the broad culture of the hijab.
“Head wrapping is a worldwide global culture, not one which is only relevant to Muslims and certainly not one only for women,” Naeem said.
She said her mother was part of the mass conversion of African-Americans to Islam in the 1970s. They adopted the practice of head wrapping that connected them to their African culture.
“Although there is a cultural resurgence around head wrapping currently in broader society, the African-American Muslim woman has been wearing wraps for decades,” Naeem said. “In other words, we started this.”
She also said that although society has been more accepting of hijabs in recent years, there is still work that needs to be done.
“For society to be more accepting of those who wear hijab means that our society has evolved into one built on understanding,” Naeem said. “I find it very telling that, when exploring head wrapping on a global perspective, you find so many men, women, children, religions, cultures and traditions that include head wrapping.”
Head wrapping transcends beyond Islam. Naeem said she questions why society focuses on the coverings of Muslim women only and why wrapping for the Muslim woman has become politicized.
“The fact that only one small percentage of those who cover worldwide are placed in the spotlight is telling and forces us to question the reason why,” she said. “I think in general we need to build a global culture of love.”
Zobaida Falah, a social entrepreneur and founder of the CURE Bar, was also a panelist at the event.
She spoke about her personal experiences and struggles she endured while observing hijab and running her company.
“[People] need to educate themselves on the true reason why women choose to cover themselves and understand that they are part of the fabric of society,” Falah said. “It is part of my identity and helps me be a better person while receiving more respect because of it.”