Canada Hijab Event Combats Islamophobia after Ontario Attack

Muslim and non-Muslim women wore the hijab on Friday (June 18) in the Canadian city of London, in the east-central Ontario province, in an event designed to combat anti-Muslim hate.

The Friday night rally, dubbed Hijabs for Harmony, drew scores of participants in London.

It started at 5 pm and featured several speakers from the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC). Later on, participants joined a solidarity walk around Victoria Park and a moment of silence for the Azaal family, Global News reported.

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“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 Londoner and Muslim Association of Canada member Reem Sultan.

The event was part of a number of gatherings held across the country to push the government to address the issue of Islamophobia in Canada.

Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed Sunday, June 6, when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, used a black pick-up truck to jump a curb and strike them.

Hostage to Fear

After the attack, Sultan said 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.”

“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.”

Support

Friday’s event was organized by Londoner Barbara Legate, a non-Muslim, in partnership with MAS.

“Women are the target for the violence,” said Legate.

She said she took inspiration from the Headscarves for Harmony event that that followed Christchurch mosque attack in 2019.

“We don’t want it turn into a costume because its very important to the women who choose to wear it, but we wanted a viably display we are in this with you,” said Legate

“Recognizing that we will go home and put them in the drawer, but they will continue to wear it.”

The attack comes amid rising concerns about Islamophobic attacks in provinces across Canada and widespread calls for authorities to tackle racism, hate-motivated violence, and the prevalence of far-right groups.

Statistics Canada said in March that police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims “rose slightly” to 181 incidents in 2019 – the last year for which the data is available. That is up from 166 incidents the previous year.