St. Catharines’ mosque is giving people a view of the hijab from behind it.
“When I came across this, I thought, the world is celebrating this, why shouldn’t we celebrate it in St. Catharines?” Qamer Foundation founder Bilkis Al Haddad said of World Hijab Day.
World Hijab Day was begun in 2013 by Nazma Khan, who faced emotional and physical bullying for wearing the hijab in the United States.
After opening an online store where women could purchase hijabs, she began receiving e-mails from women and girls with stories of bullying and abuse similar to her own. Wanting to help the situation, she created World Hijab Day, aimed at educating non-Muslims and allowing them to see the hijab from the other side.
World Hijab Day has grown to include 116 countries.
It will be celebrated Monday, Feb. 1, with “a little fun” at Masjid Noor Mosque on Geneva Street in the upstairs hall, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We have to know each other, if I want to know about nuns, I have to go to the church and talk to a nun and hear her story and that way we become familiar with each other. It is all about respect and respecting everybody’s faith and understanding everybody’s faith,” said Al Haddad.
The event is open to everyone.
“We didn’t want to do just ladies only because we wanted the men to know why we are wearing it,” said Al Haddad.
“The ladies can come in and see how the hijab is put on because that is the question they always ask: how do you put it on, how many pieces do you have?” she said. “So we will show them how we wear it and if they want to put it on one of the volunteers will help them put it on. They can take pictures if they want and they get to keep the scarf — we call it hijab — but they can take the scarf home as a gift.”
Shazia Khan will be one of the volunteers helping women put on the hijab.
“People ask me, ‘‘Oh, where do you get those?‘ and I say, ‘It’s just a regular scarf that you buy, I wear it on my head and you wear it around your neck.’” Al Haddad suggested World Hijab Day has greater relevance this year.
“Now that we are going to be getting refugees coming in, too, this will be also an awareness to expect people wearing hijab and it’s a knowledge event. A lot of people think that (a hajib) is forced: ‘Oh, does your husband tell you to wear that?’ And I say no, I wear it because I want to wear it. It is my choice,” said Al Haddad.
The mosque will be holding a bake sale on World Hijab Day to cover its costs and will be showing a video produced by one of its youth members about women and the hijab.
“We want to show that the hijabi and non-hijabi are equal and whether or not you wear it is between you and your lord,” Kader Godad, who made the video. “We want to show in the film that the hijab itself is really an empowerment and a choice for the women.”
Godad be making another film about the hijab that incorporates the Feb. 1 open house.
“It will be a raw conversation about what the hijab really means to the individuals that are wearing it, really to dispel the misconceptions that are upon the hijab itself,” he said.