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Canada hijab event aims to combat Islamophobia in wake of terror act

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Londoners came together in Victoria park in support of the Hijabs for Harmony event to combat Islamophobia Friday, June 18, 2021. (Photo by Global News)

Muslim and non-Muslim women have joined forces in the Canadian city of London in the east-central Ontario province to organize an event in which all of them wear the Islamic headdress called hijab as part of a national call against Islamophobia in the country.

The Friday night rally -- dubbed Hijabs for Harmony -- drew scores of participants in London in an effort to educate local residents on the hijab and the need to combat persisting Islamophobia across Canada following the terrorist killing of a Muslim family in the city by a man, local news outlet Global News reported.

The rally, which began at 5 p.m. and featured several speakers from the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), was followed by what was referred to as “a solidarity walk” around the city’s Victoria Park and a moment of silence for the Azaal family, four of whom were killed earlier this month when the man plowed his pickup truck into the Muslim family of five as they were taking a walk.

The event was part of a number of other gatherings held across the country to press the Canadian government to address the issue of Islamophobia amid surging attacks against Muslims and Islamic places of worship in recent months.

“In a time when a lot of women are scared to go out with their scarf on because now they have become a visible minority, this show of support encourages them to continue on with the choice they have taken,” said London resident and a MAC member Reem Sultan.

Sultan said following the June 6 attack in London, she and her family were scared and wondered if they should leave their house because wearing the hijab made her visibly Muslim.

“To overcome it is my goal and the goal of other women; we can’t be held hostage to fear or to that Islamophobic attack,” she added.

Sultan said he hopes people will try and educate themselves about differences and ask questions to better understand them.

“The most important message is with knowledge we can break down barriers. Don’t hesitate to ask questions because a lot of Muslim women will welcome that,” she said.

Safiya Shaikha, another Muslim Londoner, said that everyone should have the right to wear what they want.

“The hijab for me is not just a covering over the head, for me it’s my Islam, it’s not only a religion or what you believe spiritually, it’s a way of life,” Shaikha said. “The incident has affect all of us because we relate in many ways and its very important to be able to feel safe in the land that’s your home.”

The event was organized by non-Muslim London activist Barbara Legate -- in partnership with MAC – who said it was important to show solidarity with Muslim women and the community.

“Women are the target for the violence,” she said, noting that she took inspiration from the Headscarves for Harmony event that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand after the mass carnage of Muslims in 2019 at two mosques in which non-Muslim women wore headscarves in solidarity.

The suspect accused of killing the Canadian Muslim family is now facing terrorism charges in the case.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, faces first-degree and attempted murder charges. New charges alleging the attack was an act of terrorism were unveiled last Monday.


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