World Hijab Day returns to Wood Buffalo February 1st

By Lindsay Ducharme

Women of Wood Buffalo are invited to attend the second annual World Hijab Day event at Peter Pond Shopping Centre on February 1st from 12:30 until 4:30 p.m.

As with the inaugural event, this year’s World Hijab Day celebration will encourage women in the region to try on a hijab in an effort to raise awareness and break down stigmas sometimes associated with the traditional headwear.

“There are so many myths associated with the hijab, and we want people to find out the truth,” explained Kiran Malik-Khan, World Hijab Day YMM president.

“The biggest thing I want people to take away is that it’s not oppression, nobody is asking us, nobody is forcing us to wear this beautiful head covering every day, we do it by choice. That’s what I want them to take away, it’s a part of our identity and it completes us,” she added.

Malik-Khan promised this year’s event to be “bigger and better” than last year, including a special presentation at 2:00 p.m.  She said the event is an eye-opening experience for both Muslim women and non-Muslims alike. “We cannot do this without community support.  To have Peter Pond invite us back to host the event, speaks volumes about the event itself and the community support.”

“Last year we got everything from ‘I feel like a princess’, to ‘wow you’re paying more attention to my eyes now so I can see how you pay more attention to the person as opposed to being distracted by the hair and other things’.  The response was very positive and wonderful to hear.  These are things we know because we wear them. To have women who don’t wear the hijab, women of other faiths wear them and tell us, was just amazing.”

World Hijab Day’s first local initiative in 2014 was inspired by Bill 60, a proposed law in Quebec which would have made it illegal for “state personnel” including education and health care workers, to wear religious symbols or face coverings to work. Although the bill was defeated in the later months of 2014, Malik-Khan believes it is important to continue the fight for equality.

“Diversity, equality and harmony, these are not buzzwords.  It’s so easy to say them and it’s politically correct to say them, it’s so easy to use words, but what about actions.  Where do you stand when it comes time for action?  That was the idea last year that inspired the whole event.”

“It’s about continuing to do things that promote equality, harmony and diversity in Wood Buffalo,” she added.  “It’s embracing the notion that we are all equal, diverse, but beautiful.  It does not matter what you’re wearing, it does not matter what religion you practice, at the end of the day it’s all about respect.  Social justice is not a spectator sport.  When you stay silent and on the sidelines, whom are you siding with? Which side are you on? I think Martin Luther King said it best, “silence is siding with the oppressor.”

For more information on World Hijab Day in Fort McMurray email worldhijabdayymm@gmail.com.