The Pink Ladies: Islamic Activism meets Breast Cancer Awareness with Pink Hijab Day

Today is Pink Hijab Day, a day to encourage awareness of breast cancer in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.  Pink Hijab Day was founded in 2007 by a group of Muslim women from Missouri who wanted to promote Islam and breast cancer awareness at their high school.  In the couple of years since its inception, Pink Hijab Day has expanded both across the United States and across the world.  From the Day’s website:

Pink Hijab Day is intended to shatter stereotypes of Muslim women, as well as raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.  All over the world, Muslims participated by wearing pink hijabs, pink ribbons, and donating to breast cancer foundations.

The stigma associated with breast cancer in Middle Eastern countries has been well-documented by the media recently with former First Lady Laura Bush’s 2007 trip to the Middle East to promote awareness of the illness in the region.  In June of 2006, the State Department established the US-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research to help promote awareness of the disease collaboratively.  In an interview with Good Morning America in 2007, Bush says:

I feel it’s very important for people in the Middle East to know that people in the United States care about health and especially women’s health, because it’s still embarrassing and they’re fearful and shamed like we were over 25 years ago.

In the United States, Muslim women still do not perform breast self-examinations or seek mammograms at the same rate as the population at large, according to a 2005 study that looked at screening practices of Muslim women in California.  Efforts like Pink Hijab Day that aim to raise awareness of the disease in women, both here and internationally, and reduce the stigma associated with it are a laudatory cause.

And with that, I’d like to conclude my post with a quote from Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, a collection of articles that looks at the author’s own personal experience with breast cancer between the seventies and eighties in the United States:

Every woman has a militant responsibility to involve herself with her own health.  We owe ourselves the protection of all the information we can acquire about the treatment of cancer and its causes as well as about the recent findings concerning immunology, nutrition, environment, and stress.  And we owe ourselves his information before we may have a reason to use it.

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