Members of two local houses of worship have organized Columbus Hijab Day on Saturday to foster understanding of mainstream Islam and to build relations with the Islamic community.

The event, a joint effort between the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus, also is timed in conjunction with Women’s History Month, organizers said.

Olfa Moumen, a member of the 150-member local Islamic society, said part of the idea is to help Bartholomew County residents better understand their Muslim neighbors. Society members have publicly said for a year that they want to educate people proactively about their life and beliefs rather than being reactive to tragic world events involving radical Islamic terrorists.

“We want to use this as an opportunity to communicate with people,” Moumen said. “On the street, people cannot always easily ask me why I wear a hijab or what it means to me.”

A hijab is the scarf head covering worn by some Muslim women partly as a sign of modesty.

The event will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Viewpoint Books, 548 Washington St.

Non-Muslim women are invited to take a clean hijab and try it on, or take it with them and wear it for part of the day in what organizers are calling The Hijab Challenge.

Similar programs and activities have been conducted across the globe, said Hanna Omar, spokeswoman for the local Islamic society. In fact, this event is a spinoff of World Hijab Day, annually conducted Feb. 1 in many nations.

“People will have an opportunity to hear (about the faith) from Muslim women one-on-one,”  Omar said.

The local Muslims’ last such interactive day in the community was Ask a Muslim Dec. 10 in front of The Commons. More than 100 people stopped to converse with Islamic members as they distributed free doughnuts to passersby. Society members considered that event a huge success, Omar said.

“We understand that the hijab clearly stands out, and it is so very visual,” said Omar, who wears one. “Now, we’re providing the platform for people to ask questions.”

She mentioned that men are welcome to discuss beliefs and ask questions, too.

Chris Kevitt, a longtime member of the Unitarian church, has been among planners for Columbus Hijab Day.

“I think we can learn from each other,” Kevitt said. “I think that helps us grow in our own faith.”

She also emphasized that this is one way to fight ignorance.

“It’s easy to be uncomfortable about what you don’t know or don’t understand,” Kevitt said.

Uncovering beliefs

What: Columbus Hijab Day in conjunction with Women’s History Month, to educate Bartholomew County residents about various Muslim beliefs

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Viewpoint Books, 548 Washington St.

Information: 812-342-6230 or uucci.org.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.