New Zealand’s “Headscarf for Harmony” Effort

Women wear headscarves to stand in solidarity with New Zealand Muslim community.

This week, women in New Zealand are wearing hijabs to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community following the shooting of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.

The effort, called “Headscarf for Harmony”, was created by Auckland doctor Thaya Ashman. After hearing a Muslim woman say that she was afraid to leave her house wearing a hijab, Ashman wanted a way to show her support and solidarity. “I wanted to say: We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you,” she told Reuters.

Ashman spoke with the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand and the Muslim Association of New Zealand before putting the effort into action. She told the New Zealand Herald that she used the word headscarf instead of hijab to recognize the cultural difference present for non-Muslims.

The Headscarf for Harmony hashtag continues to spread across social media. where New Zealanders are posting pictures of themselves in headscarves accompanied by captions offering their support for the Muslim community.

"These people are New Zealanders, just like I am,” twenty four-year-old Cherie Hailwood told CNN. “I understand that one day is very different to wearing it all the time, but I am honored to be given the permission of the Muslim community to walk in their shoes. Even just for a day.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore a black headscarf when meeting with members of the Muslim community. Even news anchors and reporters joined the effort, wearing headscarves on live television. At an open prayer at the Al Noor mosque where the attack had taken place, New Zealand women wore head scarves as a gesture of respect and solidarity.

“Being a Muslim, I’m overwhelmed,” one man tweeted, “I have never seen this kind of solidarity in my entire life—the vigils, the Haka performances, the scarves. It’s just amazing and heartwarming.”

Not all supported the effort. On a Muslim woman published an unsigned article saying that while the movement may mean well, it is no more than “cheap tokenism”.

She wrote that the effort, “stinks of white savior mentality, where Muslim women need to be rescued by (largely) white folk. This type of ideology plays a part in the pyramid of white supremacy and must be acknowledged so people can stop virtue signaling and understand the impact of their actions.”

She went on to say that the attack, “was not just about Muslims, it was against any person of colour in a 'white' country so this focus on hijabs is derailing the examination of white supremacy, systematic racism, orientalism and bigotry. We don't want to be turned into a caricature.”



EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her.

emma bruce.png