04 July 2009

Headscarf activism

Muslim women fight cancer on Pink Hijab Day
By Mae Price

Hijabs have become a familiar sight on campus, but pink hijabs are something new—and they drew attention at Quebec and Ontario universities Friday.

Women from student groups in Montreal and Hamilton traded subtle colours for pink to raise funds for breast cancer research.

“The disease itself does not discriminate against religion, race, hijab or no hijab. Regardless of where you are from, it’s one disease that affects many lives,” says Nairra Tariq, who helped coordinate Concordia’s involvement.

“Pink Hijab Day is an initiative […] to actually show, with our hijabs as Muslim women, that we are in solidarity with all those who suffer from breast cancer,” says Tariq. The Canadian Islamic congress, the Quebec Muslim Students Association and the Quebec Breast Cancer Association sponsored the event.

Muriel Walker, a French studies professor at McMaster University initiated a Hijab Day last April to help clarify misconceptions by challenging non-Muslim women to wear a hijab for a day. This year, she decided to couple hijab-awareness with a challenge that unifies women around the world: breast cancer.

This October happens to double up as breast cancer awareness month and Islamic history month in Canada, and demystifying the headscarf remained an important part of Friday’s activities.

The message comes at a pressing time to the Muslim community. Reasonable accommodation hearings on differences of cultural practices are taking place around Quebec and the recently passed legislation prohibiting niqabs and other face veils while voting have brought a critical examination of the practice of covering up.

Amanie Antar, a pink hijab-clad McGill student, says she wants to “raise awareness about hijab and what the hijab represents. It’s such a loaded word these days, especially in Quebec. And it’s such a misconstrued notion.”

“It’s to help women realize that the hijab is not a scary thing that’s tied on to our heads. It’s a free choice,” agrees Tariq.

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