"In the Fall of 2015, the International Student and Scholar Services office partnered with the Women’s Center to create the International Women’s Group. The goal of this group was to connect and support women from the Middle East at Miami University and in the Oxford community. One of our members proposed celebrating World Hijab Day, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for our group to transition from more social activities to one that seeks to educate our community,” she said in an interview with IQNA.
"I think World Hijab day is a wonderful event that seeks to demystify the hijab and help people understand why a woman would choose to wear the hijab, and give them an opportunity to experience it themselves. I hope the event helps to foster understanding and connections across communities.”
Asked whether such events can improve understanding and awareness about Muslim women and their right to wear the hijab, Ms O’Connell said, "This is certainly our hope! Our goal is to help break down stereotypes surrounding women who choose to wear the hijab, and to help people understand it is a choice. We want to try and demystify the hijab and give people a chance to answer questions they may be hesitant to ask. We know that one day cannot change everyone’s mind or misconceptions about the hijab, but we hope this can be the start of a long conversation that we can continue.
"I think often these misconceptions come about from simply not knowing a Muslim person! Sometimes our greatest fears come from what we do not know about. I hope that by increasing the visibility of our Muslim students and community members that we can help people can make connections and help further their understanding of Islam.”
As for the number of Muslim students at the university, Ms O’Connell said there are no exact figures available. "We have many Muslim students but it is hard for us to say how many Muslim students there are at Miami since we do not keep demographics concerning religious affiliation on file; however, we have students from many Muslim-populated countries on our campus, as well as domestic (American) students who may also follow the Islamic faith.
"From the conversations I have had with my students, I have been happy to hear that they feel welcomed and supported here at Oxford. Overall I think they fit in very well with our community and think of Miami and Oxford as their home. I am sure there are people on our campus and in our town who may have some misconceptions about Islam and Muslim students, and we hope with our event and future events we can help address their misconceptions.”
She also referred to the activities of the International Women’s Group, saying, "Our women’s group has been meeting since the Fall of 2015, and we have held events around campus and our community focused on fostering friendship about Muslim and non-Muslim women. Our university also has a Muslim Student Association.”