Pakistani Artists Take #DamnILookGood Hijab Selfies

Walk a while in another's hijab.

Saks Afridi and Qinza Najm, a photo from #DamnILookGood, which promotes tolerance for women who chose to wear the hijab. Photo: courtesy the artists.

Promoting tolerance and understanding of Islam, Pakistani-American artists Qinza Najm and Saks Afridi are asking New Yorkers to take a selfie wearing the traditional Muslim hijab and post the photo on social media with the hashtag #DamnILookGood, reports the International Business Times.

Worn by conservative Muslim women in front of adult men outside their own families to preserve modesty, the hijab is often viewed as a symbol of the repression of women and of radical Islam by people in the West. The project does not look to support countries that have laws forcing women to wear the hijab in public, but to recognize that women may choose to wear one for a variety of reasons.

Although she grew up in Pakistan, Najm found the hijab mysterious, as she and most of the other women in her liberal family never wore them. To better understand those who did, Najm recently tried wearing one on the streets of New York.

A Frightening Incident

“Someone started screaming at me to ‘Go home!’” Najm told the New York Daily News. “I was surprised because I figured people in New York would have more tolerance.” In an even more frightening incident, a passenger on the subway tried to choke her. These harrowing experiences convinced Najm that if people could just try one on, they might not be so mistrustful of the hijab.

A visual artist, Najm teamed up with performance artist Afridi to bring #DamnILookGood to last month’s DUMBO Arts Festival, using niqabs (which cover just the face, not the body) donated by local Muslim women eager to spark a dialogue about their preferred dress. Men, women, and children alike were invited to participate.

“With this empowering fabric as her barrier and superpower,” reads the artists’ statement, “she can’t be judged on attractiveness and retains complete control of her sexuality, which ultimately is what makes her beautiful.”

“It was mind-opening to put one on,” 25-year-old Erin Zeitler told the Daily News, admitting she had never considered women might view the hijab as a personal statement, rather than something they are being forced to don. “It was like looking at the world through someone else’s eyes.”

“More than meets the eye.”

“The point of the project is to at least have the audience see there’s more than meets the eye,” Najm told IBN. “There are other layers besides the repression of women. Some women wear the garments to avoid being oversexualized, and some carry on the family tradition of wearing it.”

By asking New Yorkers to photograph themselves wearing the hijab, the artists hope to set a different tone for the garment. “A selfie suggests you are feeling confident and good about yourself,” Najm explained to the Daily News.

“I would not say this is a celebration, but rather an exercise in tolerance,” added Afridi. “We are not for or against the hijab, we are just posing the question about how it makes people feel to wear one.”

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