Library in Canada hosts Hijab Day educational event

SHAFAQNA- The Grande Prairie Public Library is hosting “Hijab Day,” an event where conservative Muslim women explain to non-Muslims why they choose to wear the head covering.

The event is part of World Hijab Day, an annual international event that took place Feb. 1. The Grande Prairie library’s Hijab Day is set for Saturday, Feb. 27, when several local women who wear the hijab by their own choice will explain why they wear it.

Jill Kergan, community services librarian, said library staff found out about World Hijab Day because a Halifax library had hosted its own event. They decided it would be a good fit for Grande Prairie.

“We see such a diverse group of people as more newcomers come, and I think it would foster a better sense of community if we understood different cultures a little better,” Kergan said.

The hijab is a veil that covers the head and chest, and is worn by some Muslim women when they’re in the presence of adult males who aren’t immediate family members.

Kergan said she’s heard that hijab-wearing women have been subjected to a “backlash” since 9/11 and the attacks last year by members of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Paris.

“Racism is escalating,” she said.

World Hijab Day was started by Nazma Khan, a New York woman who said she faced discrimination in school because of her hijab.

According to the library’s description of the event, it is a common “misconception” to view the hijab as a symbol of oppression.

“We invite you to learn the true meaning of the Hijab from the perspective of Muslim Women,” the description says.

Much of criticism of the hijab comes from reformist Muslim women who say women who don’t want to wear the garment often face discrimination within their own communities. Following the 2007 murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez, Postmedia columnist Farzana Hassan blasted imams for “their insistence on the hijab as a religious requirement.” Parvez was murdered by her father and brother in Mississauga, Ont., because she refused to wear the hijab.

However, the presentations at the library will focus on who wear the hijab because they want to do so. From their point of view, Kergan said, the hijab is a matter of having the freedom to wear what you want to wear. Kergan also pointed out that the idea of a woman covering her hair out of modesty isn’t alien to Western culture; in the past, Canadian women wore scarves and bonnets for just that reason.

The Hijab Day event will take place in the library’s Rotary Room Feb. 27 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

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