Free (Burqah) Hugs

--“Free (Burqah) Hugs”
Series of photographs with the artist giving out free hugs to strangers while wearing casual Western clothing and then changing into a full-on burqah and scarf in a main public plaza

Back in 2007, I completed a social experiment outdoors on the campus of George Mason University where I held a sign that said, “Free Hugs.” After some hesitation, I was able to hug almost 75 students within one hour. However, I noticed that the Muslim women wearing hijabs kept walking by and refused to embrace me. It was that day that I decided to return to this very place almost five years later and dress like my target audience. Although I felt like I was a stranger in my own hometown, I was overjoyed with the response when strangers came running from afar to embrace me. Yes, this raises questions about gender roles and whether Muslim women should embrace those of the opposite gender, however, I believe that if one’s intent are purely to hug someone out of respect, the world can thrive as a better place.

[Special thanks to photographer Kayse Kosar]

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