Hijab Day Sparks Conversations at Richwoods High School

Feb 1, 2017

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The Muslim Student Association at Richwoods High School invited classmates to try on a hijab for the day.

Richwoods Senior Nala Davis wrapped a mustard yellow scarf around her head when she arrived at school Wed. Just a few hours into the school day, Davis says, she felt a teacher look at her differently.

“When they gave me that look, I just felt terrible. I felt really bad," Davis said. “That’s when I had to kick in, like, ‘it’s not about you. It’s about everybody. You’re not going to take it off just like one person looked at you a certain way.’”

Davis says she’s wearing the hijab in solidarity with her Muslim classmates, like Ariej Mohamed, who’s wearing an American flag headscarf.

Mohamed says as a whole, Richwoods is supportive and she feels safe at school. But there’s room for improvement.

“I think it’s important that people are educated that hijab is not oppression,” Mohamed said. “It’s my choice to wear the hijab, it’s her choice to wear the hijab, and it’s their choice not to wear the hijab.”

Senior Ravie Boungou told her classmates that wearing hijab is like putting on a new pair of high heels.

“Like her walk is more confident, the way she talks, the way she stands and how she acts with those heels on, she just is confident,” Boungou said. “For me, being able to participate in World Hijab Day and wearing the hijab are my heels. Because when you put this thing on, you feel like the boss and you feel like you can do anything.”

The World Hijab Day event has been received with controversy and even banned from some schools across the country. Richwood Principal Brett Elliott says he “easily” approved of the event at Richwoods because it aligns with the school’s values of leadership and diversity.

Mohamed says she’s encouraged by the outpouring of support of Muslims in recent protests nationwide, and from classmates during Wednesday's Hijab Day initiative.

Her friend Nala Davis says she’s going to keep her headscarf on after school, too.