Unity promoted on World Hijab Day

The local Muslim community will host the thrid annual World Hijab Day in St. Catharines on Thursday, Feb. 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the new Mac-Nis Islamic school on Haig Street (the former Maywood public school). People are invited to try on an hijab and learn more about the headcovering and the Muslim women who wear it. Six-year-old Toleen Alfatafta tries on an hijab with help from her mother and Grade 2 teacher, Ala Qubaja. A community of women, including Yusra Al-Haddad, Bilkis Al-Haddad and Golala Mahmoudi are supporting the annual event. on Monday January 29, 2018 in St. Catharines, Ont. Cheryl Clock/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

The local Muslim community will host the thrid annual World Hijab Day in St. Catharines on Thursday, Feb. 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the new Mac-Nis Islamic school on Haig Street (the former Maywood public school). People are invited to try on an hijab and learn more about the headcovering and the Muslim women who wear it. Six-year-old Toleen Alfatafta tries on an hijab with help from her mother and Grade 2 teacher, Ala Qubaja. A community of women, including Yusra Al-Haddad, Bilkis Al-Haddad and Golala Mahmoudi are supporting the annual event. on Monday January 29, 2018 in St. Catharines, Ont. Cheryl Clock/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

They almost ran out of hijabs. Almost.

Organizers of the first annual World Hijab Day event in St. Catharines three years ago figured that 200 scarves would be plenty. The idea was to invite the community into the Geneva Street mosque and have some fun letting people try on the head coverings worn by Muslim women.

The public would learn a bit about their Muslim neighbours and it would lead to a greater understanding of people of all faiths and cultures, said Bilkis Al-Haddad, event organizer and founder of the Qamer Foundation, an organization in Niagara dedicated to serving youth.

People could ask questions. Choose a scarf. Have a photo taken while wearing a hijab. And then leave with a personal head covering as a thank you for reaching out in peace and understanding.

Turns out some 300 people came out to the event. And organizers had to made an emergency trip to the local discount store to buy more.

Last year, they were better prepared when another 300 people turned out.

And on Thursday, Feb. 1, they will open their doors once again, this time at a new location — the Mac-Nis Islamic School in St. Catharines.

The school moved from its original location in Niagara Falls on Lyons Creek Road, into the former Maywood Public School on Haig Street in St. Catharines and opened to students this past September.

The building is wheelchair accessible and organizers are hoping that allows even more people to come out and try on a hijab.

The day was started by Nazma Khan, a Muslim woman in New York who experienced physical and emotional harassment because she wore the head covering. Six years ago, she asked women around the world, regardless of faith, to wear a hijab for the day in solidarity with Muslim women worldwide.

Since then, on Feb. 1 of every year, communities around the globe host their own World Hijab Day. The idea is to create a more peaceful world where people respect each other.

“It’s about a greater understanding,” said Al-Haddad. “A peaceful world.”

Women and men, children and seniors, entire families have come out to past events, she said. One year, a young girl brought her doll. They both were fitted for a hijab.

Participants can ask questions, and Hosam Helal, the new imam of the St. Catharines mosque will be there to offer insight.

“We bring all sorts of colourful hijabs and we tell people, the only difference is that you put it on your neck as an accessory and we put in on our head,” said Al-Haddad.

There will be food and baked goods for sale. The samosas and butter chicken and rice always sell out fast. Money raised will go towards repairs to the school after a pipe burst earlier this month and caused a flood.

She hopes people will leave with a bigger message of understanding.

“This is my faith. This is my identity,” said Al-Haddad.

“And all I’m asking you is that we respect each other.”

cclock@postmedia.ca

World Hijab Day, St. Catharines

People can try on a hijab and learn more about the local Muslim community during World Hijab Day, Thursday, Feb. 1. The location has moved this year to the Islamic school in St. Catharines, on the corner of Scott and Haig streets. The event runs from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information visit the Qamer Foundation

World Hijab Day

To learn more about the international event, visit http://worldhijabday.com

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