Gift A Scarf to Syrian Refugees this Eid by Alexandra Boyle

Posted on Sep 07, 2016
Guest Contributor


Since the migration of Syrian refugees began I have seen several end up on the streets of London. For a few weeks there was a couple outside my nearest underground station. They had a big suitcase and were always together, taking turns to sleep, and to sit up asking for money. In fact, they never asked, just sat, and hoped, I suppose. What a difficult and humiliating adjustment it must feel to go from a life with jobs and a house and friends and citizenship, to sitting on a foreign street, having to raise your voice to beg for the help of strangers, the majority of whom ignore you or eye you with suspicion. That couple is gone now. I think of them quite often, I hope they found their way to a better situation.

My initial thought was that, with Eid in several weeks, I could buy a few hijabs and give them as gifts to homeless Muslim women on Eid. But then how could I be guaranteed to find these women when Eid came around? How many are there in London? And where? I reached out to social media acquaintances I had made through my new business venture, The Modest Closet. Charley Hafiz of Modestly Wrapped replied, found a supplier, Hijab Junkie, and it started to feel more do­able! I got onto Facebook and the responsiveness blew my mind. I came across an organisation called One Nation, who agreed to take my scarves along with their own appeal items on their transport to Turkey. I am even more pleased that they will be going to Turkey. With the recent attempted coup and proximity to Syria, it is probably a more frightening place to be, and perhaps the people who are in Turkish camps have escaped Syria more recently than those further West. The pain and fear may be fresher. Suddenly, I felt extreme excitement that the tiny, silly little fleeting thought I had weeks before was actually going to happen.

So with a bit of quickfire web design, 'Hijabistas, Help A Sister!' was ready to launch. Gifters can choose from five colours ­ all nice and bright to make for a celebratory scene, and just £3 each. There is also a link to a Just Giving page set up to take donations for the Refugee Council, who work at a local level with refugees in the community in the UK. The response so far has been fantastic. Some people choose their favourite colour (blue is winning), while others very generously buy all five. As well as purchases, reactions on social media made me actually cry earlier today.

As a girl chef I try my best not to be seen crying at work. Emotions + inability to open jars = eyeroll. But the things people have said, as post comments and in private messages have been so heartwarming. Now, please make a Syrian woman smile, knowing that people from all around the world are thinking about her, and not just as a refugee, a number in a camp, but as a woman.

Since I began working on The Modest Closet, and again now with this gifting program, people have wondered why I have taken an interest in these subjects, as a non-Muslim, as a traditionally non­-modest dresser? First of all I think that growing up in a big, culturally mixed city like London makes you see the similarities between yourself and another human, rather than the differences. Secondarily, modesty is coming to me with age and feels more and more natural and comfortable. My audience will be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, shy, covered in tattoos they need to hide for work, prone to coldness... because, and this is the most important point for everything I'm doing, women can wear whatever they want. If you want to wear a niqab, cool. If you want to wear a bralet and hot pants, cool. If you want to wear a ball gown on a Tuesday afternoon because it's been hanging in your closet and you never have an occasion to wear it, then that's eccentric, but totally cool. I want the Muslim women fleeing Syria and searching for safety in Europe to feel safe in a hijab if they want to wear one, because I can only imagine the worry you would feel if you arrive in an unfamiliar country as a hijab wearer and hear that there is a ban on wearing a full covering at the beach (#burkiniban), or that the schools won't allow Muslim girls to wear a headscarf. I'm doing this because there's people in the world who wouldn't want me to, and someone has to do something about that.

To gift a hijab to a Syrian refugee this Eid, visit 'Hijabistas, Help A Sister!' today!