News / Ottawa

Women's groups not concerned about anti-hijab protest

The event has come under fire on social media for promoting the oppression of women, but organizer Sado Ibrahim said she the event can help educate people.

Ryerson Engineering student Mariam Nouser, 20, chose to remove her Hijab after an altercation in 2014 but later gained the strength to wear it again and practice her beliefs.

Cole Burston/Torstar News Service

Ryerson Engineering student Mariam Nouser, 20, chose to remove her Hijab after an altercation in 2014 but later gained the strength to wear it again and practice her beliefs.

Sado Ibrahim has been wearing a hijab for almost 25 years – a personal choice she said she made after leaving her family in Somalia in the 1990s.

She is encouraging other women to do the same on Thursday during Ottawa Hijab Solidarity Day, or at least try one on, in the name of educating non-Muslims and eliminating Islamophobia.

“I feel liberated when I’m wearing it … because it’s something that came from me. It feels right for me,” she said, acknowledging that women in other countries do not have that freedom.

“We don’t condone that,” she said. “Any women who were forced or were subjected to that kind of oppression, we are against it.”

But for the women in Ottawa who, like her, chose to veil their heads, this event is designed to provide them a safe space in light of anti-Muslim rhetoric which seemed to flourish during the federal election campaign, including the attack of a Muslim woman in Toronto last November.

Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, who has made ending violence against women a policing priority, is scheduled to speak at the reception at City Hall. The City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) both organized on the event.

It has already come under fire by some on social media and now it appears it might face even more.  

About a dozen people say they will attend a protest inside City Hall to “demonstrate that you do not support the subjugation of women that the hijab represents,” according to a Facebook event.

“Due to security concerns, details of the protest will not be given until very close to the time,” wrote protest organizer Martin Hubris.

Ibrahim said she is not concerned about the anti-hijab protest and welcomes opposing views on the matter.

“This (reception) has nothing to do with negativity or anything to force people to either try on a hijab or to force people to become Muslim,” she said. “It’s more like an education piece.” 

The event will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. in the councillors' lounge.