The Hawk's Eye

Hijab Heroes

While Olathe East focuses on informing students about math and science, the social experience of high school offers an opportunity to learn about people as well. The problem for many teens, though, derives from deciphering where the line between invasive and informative lies and the uncertainty causes too many inquiries to go unanswered. Students Yosra Hassan and Basima Khan set out to fix this issue, starting with a schoolwide “Hijab Day.”

Olathe East’s Muslim Student Association planned Hijab Day with the leadership club president, Hassan, and vice president, Khan. In the days leading up to the event, Hassan and Khan collected as many hijabs as they could find, receiving many donations along the way. When the moment came to set up their table they were more than prepared.

“People came to our table and they asked questions,” said Hassan on the events of Hijab day. “I feel like people are afraid to come up to us and ask us [questions].”

Both students share they have often encountered their peers curiosity, but their classmates have been afraid to voice their confusion.

“People are like, “can we ask this question,”” said Khan, “they don’t want to be rude in any way.”  

“I always get asked, “I don’t want to offend you or anything, but why do you wear that?””

Khan and Hassan expressed that they never want people to be afraid to approach them. In fact, the girls want people to ask them.

“It’s better for them to come up and ask us,” said Khan, “than to assume about why we wear them.”

To dispel such assumptions and encourage understanding, the two decided the best way to combat the issue was to create a safe, comfortable environment for people to voice their queries. With the help of their sponsor, English teacher Jessica Steinberg,  and cooperation from the school, they were able to get their table and create Hijab Day.

They wanted to send out a school wide message: “we are open to asking questions.”

However, they didn’t stop there. Khan and Hassan took the extra step to share their experiences as well as their knowledge. With the support of teachers who agreed to participate, they offered students a chance to try on the hijabs they had collected.

“We had a poster that said ‘Hijab Made Me Feel’ and then everyone would sign under it how [wearing it] made them feel,” said Hassan.

People, Muslim or not, were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and newfound understanding of another culture. Spreading awareness is The Muslim Student Association’s main goal.

Hassan and former senior Zainab Alagha created the club with the intention of fighting prejudice and ignorance. They were inspired by UMKC’s very own Muslim Student Association and asked, “Why not have it here?”

“We get a lot of hate because of our religion and how it’s portrayed in the media,” said Hassan about their motivation to create Olathe East’s MSA. Hassan and Alagha were hit with a wave of inspiration and passion to start spreading cultural appreciation within the school.

Hassan said, “We really wanted to educate people and show them a narrative other than the stereotypical image that is constantly being portrayed of us.”

One year later and the club remains driven by the same purpose. Events like Hijab Day have given them the opportunity to start reaching the student body on a larger scale, but the two still have plenty more in store for the Hawks.

The club meets every Thursday during seminar to have group discussions on the day’s topic, but despite common belief, the MSA opens itself to students of all race and religion.

“We actually want more non-Muslims to come because that’s our mission,” said Hassan. The club isn’t only for those who practice Islam. Instead, it was assembled to encourage diversity and unity.

“It’s definitely also a place for others to express their cultures,” Hassan said.

The two plan to focus on finding ways to reach a wider range of people in the future. The club is still young and they have plenty they want to accomplish in the years to come, and the two hope to do so with the aid of those from all different backgrounds. Through the club, they intend to improve the school, as well as get to know other students.

“It’s not just a learning experience for them to learn about Islam, it’s also for us to learn things about their religion as well,” said Khan. “It’s a two-way street on gaining knowledge.”

Photo Courtesy of Basmia Khan
English Teachers, Rippee, Steinberg, Goddard, Tow participated in Hijab Day.

The Student News Site of Olathe East High School
Hijab Heroes