CAIRO – An attack on a pregnant veiled Muslim womanin Stockholm has triggered calls on Swedish women of all religious affiliations to don hijab, in a show of support to Muslim rights.
“We want people to wear a headscarf on Monday. Primarily because we want to normalize the headscarves,” said Bilan Osman, one of the initiators, to P4 Göteborg, Goteborg Daily reported.
“People view headscarves and Muslims as something alien. This could be a good opportunity to acknowledge what Muslim women go currently through.”
The attack occurred when a pregnant woman was attacked in Farsta outside Stockholm
Reportedly, the attack was provoked by her wearing a hijab.
According to a friend of the attacked woman, who spoke to Sveriges Radio, the woman’s headscarf was first torn off, before the attackers proceeded to beat her head against a car until she passed out. The incident also involved racist taunts.
“She was wearing a headscarf and she thinks her faith is the reason she was assaulted,” Klas Jensgård of Stockholm’s southern district police told the TT news agency.
As the news of the attack was made public, several other women have since come forward with their own accounts of harassment in connection to wearing a headscarf.
The incident has led to a national outcry in social media, where women, religious or non-religious, are encouraged to wear a headscarf for a day as an act of solidarity.
Muslims make up between 450,000 and 500,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to the US State Department report in 2011.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Hijab has been in the eye of storm since France banned the headscarf in public places in 2004.
Since then, several European countries have followed suit.
Moved by the incident, a group of Swedish activists organized the “hijab outcry” (‘hijabuppropet’), urging protection for the rights of the Muslim minority.
The group also published an opinion piece in the Aftonbladet newspaper in which they urged Justice Minister Beatrice Ask to take measures to “ensure that Swedish Muslim women are guaranteed the right to personal safety and religious freedom, without being subject to verbal and physical attacks”.
“In addition, we demand that responsible politicians actively draw attention to and fight the structural discrimination that affects Muslim women,” the authors wrote.
“We believe that’s reason enough in a country where the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims is on the rise – and where women tie their headscarves extra tight so that it won’t get ripped off – for the prime minister and other politicians to take action to stop the march of fascism.”
The Swedish “Feminist Initiative” also issued a statement condemning the attacks on veiled Muslim women.
“We stand side by side with the sisters who are exposed to hate crimes and we stand up for religious freedom in Sweden,” the group said in a statement published on their website.
“We require broad efforts to prevent hate crimes and discrimination.”
The outcry has spread in social media through the hashtag #hijabuppropet.
Green Party MP Åsa Romson, leading Social Democrat Veronica Palm and the comedian and television host Gina Dirawi are among those who have published photos of themselves in headscarves.