Organisers of tomorrow's Headscarf for Harmony day say there are no rules around what sort of headscarf to wear or how to wear it, rather it's simply a way for Kiwis to show their support for Muslim women in New Zealand.

However, a furore has erupted with some calling the move oppressive and signalling women as subservient to men.

But an Auckland University Islamic scholar says he's proud of the initiative and believes Muslim women in New Zealand would be too.

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The event is the brainchild of Auckland GP Dr Thaya Ashman who thought of the idea after seeing a Muslim woman on the news saying she was now too afraid to go outside because she wears a hijab.

Dr Ashman said she instantly wanted to do something for her and other Muslim women around the country and came up with the Headscarf for Harmony day tomorrow.

Before going ahead with the idea, she spoke to a close Muslim friend before approaching the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand and the Muslim Association of New Zealand.

Both organisations had given their full support and had been humbled by the offer.

She also asked for advice for Kiwis around how to wear their headscarf or if there were more favourable colours to choose but the organisations had chosen not to advise due to the numerous intricacies involved in wearing one and people unnecessarily getting bogged down in too much detail.

Dr Ashman said they had also dubbed the scarf a headscarf rather than a hijab which also took away any cultural formalities.

However, many Kiwis on social media have written of their disgust of the event on twitter, responding to co-organiser Rachel McGregor's post calling it oppressive to women.

"Yes, women need oppressing. Funny, in Iran, the women protest and take their headscarf off, end up getting beaten and thrown in jail," one person wrote, while another said "Wearing a symbol of oppression and discrimination to mourn a massacre. Let that sink in".


But Dr Zain Ali, Islamic studies scholar at University of Auckland, said the initiative wasn't insulting to Muslim women.

"And is it insulting to people in general? No, because no one is being forced to wear the scarf. It's an idea and you're free to participate or not."

He also disagreed that by wearing the headscarf it was an oppressive gesture.

"Is the headscarf itself oppressive? No, I don't think it is oppressive. I think there are layers to the discussion."

Those layers included the Islamic/Muslim theology behind it within Islamic tradition, of which there were two main reasons for wearing it at its inception 1400 years ago - modesty and personal security.

"You have the original intent and over 1400 years later you have groups like Isis, who have just completely gone overboard and other Muslim countries as well where it's become part of the culture and tradition to the point where it's hard to wear anything else.


"Personally I think it shouldn't be forced on anyone, whether you're in a Muslim country or not."

Dr Ali said Headscarf for Harmony had "come from a good place".

"It's a way of showing solidarity and I don't find it insulting ... I think you can distinguish between the issues. The issue of womens' rights in Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world.

"But that shouldn't really stop you from showing solidarity with Muslim women here in New Zealand. By wearing a headscarf I don't think that means that you agree with what is happening in Iran or Saudi Arabia. You should be mature enough to make that distinction.


• Open to both men and women,
• No rules around how to wear your headscarf or what colour,
• Event runs all day,
• Participants can wear their headscarf for as long as they like,
• Men can wear it draped over their shoulders or wrapped around their wrist.