Vernon Hills High School hijab video strikes a chord

 
 
Updated 12/16/2015 7:45 PM
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  • Student Hiba Hashim, in yellow, helps senior Carter Ray with her hijab during the "Walk a Mile in Her Hijab" event Dec. 9 at Vernon Hills High School. The program was sponsored by the VHHS Muslim Student Association to promote awareness of Muslim culture.

      Student Hiba Hashim, in yellow, helps senior Carter Ray with her hijab during the "Walk a Mile in Her Hijab" event Dec. 9 at Vernon Hills High School. The program was sponsored by the VHHS Muslim Student Association to promote awareness of Muslim culture. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

A DailyHerald.com video posted last Friday about non-Muslim Vernon Hills High School students experiencing what it's like to wear a hijab struck a chord -- and a nerve -- with people.

The video has more than 60,000 Facebook shares and attracted a larger-than-usual international audience on DailyHerald.com, with hundreds of viewers in predominantly Muslim countries like United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan and Qatar.

Vernon Hills High School Principal Jon Guillaume said he's received a lot of phone calls and emails about it, both supportive and critical, and some from outside the United States.

"We have good conversations about it," he said. "Most are supportive."

The one-minute video shows members of the school's Muslim Student Association, or MSA, helping non-Muslim girls put on hijabs for a "Walk a Mile in Her Hijab" event.

The voluntary activity, hosted by the 10-member student group, six of whom are Muslim, was aimed at education and outreach about the Muslim faith.

"(It will) denounce negative stereotypes and show that we are just caring, respectful, peaceful students, and your peers," student organizer Yasmeen Abdallah said on the video.

Emails to Daily Herald staff and comments posted online showed not everyone saw it that way. Many readers argued that if prayer is not allowed in schools, then this should not be allowed, either, as the hijab is a religious item. Some also viewed it as a propaganda move by the MSA. Other critics noted that some Muslim extremists actively recruit young people to become terrorists.

Guillaume said the MSA has the right to free speech and the right to organize, just as the other student groups do, including the Jewish Student Union and the Fellowship of Christian Allies.

"We have religious groups that do 'Prayer at the Pole,' 'A Day of Silence,' and 'A Day of Truth.' As long as what they're asking to do doesn't interrupt the educational setting, it's OK. This wasn't about promoting a religion. It was about getting kids to follow a theme we have, which is to walk a mile in someone's shoes before you cast any judgment," he said.

Muslims make up less than 2 percent of Vernon Hills High School's population, Guillaume said.

Abdallah, the student organizer, was "disappointed" when she read some of the negative online comments, Guillaume said, but also encouraged by the positive comments and is "feeling supported."

"It's been an educational thing, and that's what the group was after," he said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, praised the student group, saying education is key to curbing the rising anti-Muslim sentiment around the country.

"Anything to do with Islam and Muslims is going to get twisted on social media. Anything's going to be attacked as an inevitable takeover of the country and replacement of the Constitution with Sharia (Islamic law)," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. "But education is one of the only ways to decrease stereotypes and stop prejudice."

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