Muslim women share why they choose to wear a hijab in new short film

A new short film examines misconceptions around the hijab and why some Muslim women in Edmonton chose to wear the head covering. The film World Hijab Day shares its name with an annual event that was founded in 2013.

The 10th anniversary of World Hijab Day is Feb. 1

Three Muslim women in hajibs pose for a selfie.
Hafsa Bint Yusuf, Safia Ibrahim, filmmaker Amal Mohamud pose for a selfie. The three are in a new CBC Creative Network short film called World Hijab Day. (Submitted by Amal Mohamud )

A new short film examines misconceptions around the hijab and why some Muslim women in Edmonton choose to wear the head covering. 

The film World Hijab Day shares its name with an annual event that was founded in 2013.

"I wanted to do this video to spread awareness and kind of just educate people," said Amal Mohamud, the Edmonton filmmaker behind the project.

The event World Hijab Day was founded in 2013 in the U.S. by Nazma Khan, a Muslim woman, to help foster religious tolerance and provide education by inviting all women to experience the hijab for one day.  It takes place on Feb. 1. 

For Mohamud, the hijab symbolizes her faith and worship. 

"It's kind of like my submission to my God. It represents modesty, morality, privacy, and just being a good person and a good role model." 

A hijab is a garment that covers the head and neck. Modesty is an aspect of Islam, but not all Muslim women wear a head covering. 

Mohamud said she wanted people to know many Muslim women are not forced to wear a hijab and choose to do so. 

In the film, which is part of CBC's Creative Network that aims to amplify voices of the next generation of Canadians, Mohamud interviews community advocate Safia Ibrahim and social media influencer Hafsa Bint Yusuf, who has nearly 200,000 followers on TikTok. 

Ibrahim has gone through different periods in her life where she has taken the hijab on and off. When she first came to Edmonton, more than ten years ago, she did not wear a head covering.

While attending college, she said people would compliment her looks and hair. But about a year later, she decided to wear a hijab again because she wanted to be identifiable as a Muslim. 

Even though she was in the same cohort, Ibrahim said her classmates would no longer compliment or even talk to her. 

"But I'm still the same person, you know?" 

However, Ibrahim said people's attitudes are changing. 

"More people know what it's called now. Like I can say 'hijab' and someone's gonna understand it. Whereas before it had to be a headscarf."

Recently, Ibrahim's 11-year-old daughter has decided to also wear the head covering. 

"She said, because, Mom, you wear it and my aunts wear it and like, everyone wears it. So I want to," said Ibrahim.

"I was so in awe of her." 

While Mohamud's family has embraced head coverings, she said Muslim women are still a target of racism. 

According to Statistics Canada, there was a 71 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes directed toward Muslims in Canada, compared to the year before. 

In 2020, an Edmonton man attacked a mother and daughter outside Southgate Centre, pushing one of the women to the ground, causing her to lose consciousness. Both had their hijabs torn off during the incident. 

"I feel like there's a long way to go to address the racism," said Mohamud.

She hopes her film will help diversify Canadian film and television, particularly when it comes to portraying Muslim women.

Usually when you see a Muslim woman on TV, Mohamud said, it's because she's been attacked. But her film is upbeat, modern and relatable. 

"I think we've never really had a documentary that just solely, focuses on the hijab," said Mohamud. 

"It's a part of our identity. We are teachers, we're educators, we're influencers, we're filmmakers. We have our own personality." 


Liam Harrap

Associate producer

Liam Harrap is a journalist at CBC Edmonton. He likes to find excuses to leave the big city and chase rural stories. Send story tips to him at liam.harrap@cbc.ca.