Wearing hijab is a spiritual statement for Muslim girls and women. It is a sign of faith and a practice of faithfulness. Yet many hijabis – girls who wear hijab – report being bullied because of the public way they display their faith in their attire. While Christian children might wear religious jewelry without peer comment, negative public sentiments about Muslims can create anxiety for young Muslim girls who wear hijab outside the home.
Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad knows that anxiety firsthand. The first American Muslim woman to compete and medal in the Olympic Games (in 2016), she has worn hijab proudly since elementary school. Now she’s published a children’s book about that experience.
Told from the perspective of her younger sister, The Proudest Blue, serves as a mirror for other young hijabis to see themselves as beautiful and true to their faith. It can also be a window through which non-Muslim children learn about the Muslim practice of wearing hijab. And it might just serve as a door for children’s active empathy on behalf of those who are bullied just for being different.
Introduce The Proudest Blue to children using one or more of the following activities.
Drawing. In the story, Faizah draws a picture of herself and her sister wearing matching hijabs. Invite children to draw pictures of themselves and others. Ask them to emphasize ways in which each person is similar and how they are different. If children have a visible way that they show their faith, encourage them to include that detail in their drawing. Display the pictures for everyone to see.
Discussion. As you read the book together, invite children to explore the story through these questions:
- Why does Faizah call her sister a princess?
- How does Faizah view her sister’s hijab?
- How do other children react to Asiya’s hijab?
- What does the girls’ mother say about wearing hijab?
- What does their mother say about hurtful words?
- How do Asiya and Faizah respond to questions and hurtful words?
Colorful meaning. Asiya chooses a blue hijab to wear and her sister finds meaning in that color choice. Invite children to talk about their favorite colors and how seeing or wearing that color affects them. Ask: “How do you feel when you see your favorite color?” “How is your color special and regular?” If a child likes blue, ask them how Faizah’s description of her sister’s blue hijab compares with their own way of seeing the color blue.
Counting steps. Faizah likes to count. She counts steps in the crosswalk, steps to reach her sister on the playground, cartwheels at recess, and steps away from a bully. Ask one child to stand in the middle of the room with other children or family members gathered around. Have the center child yell “bully, bully, bully” and invite the others to count their steps as they move away until they feel safe. Talk about how it’s okay for some people to need more steps and some to need less. Remind them that what’s important is to recognize when you need to step away.