Hijab wearer: ‘I am not oppressed and I am not stupid’
BY ANNE SUTHERLAND, THE GAZETTE
First World Hijab Day in Montreal
MONTREAL — As a young Muslim woman, Nadia Naqvi wears a traditional head scarf every day.
“I made the decision to put this on after the Christmas break when I turned 15,” Naqvi said. “I’m 32 now and I have been wearing a hijab more than half of my life.”
Despite what politicians and others promoting the proposed charter of secularism, Bill 60, claim, Naqvi said she is not the product of a society that makes women second-class citizens and dictates that they must cover their hair.
“If you get to know me you will see that I am not oppressed and I am not stupid,” said Naqvi, currently on maternity leave from her teaching job at Beaconsfield High School.
World Hijab Day was marked Saturday afternoon in a Concordia building with a seminar, panel discussions and presentations by highly articulate women as a way to spread awareness about religious head covering.
This event was started in New York last year and has spread to more than 50 countries. This marked Montreal’s first participation.
The issue is timely with all the negativity and furor surrounding Bill 60.
Gwenda Wells, an Anglican minister, came to the meeting as an act of solidarity with the Muslim women.
“If Bill 60 — banning allegedly ostentatious religious symbols and clothing for those in the public sector — is passed, jobs in education, health and childcare will be lost to women, and all of these are valuable and life-affirming jobs,” Wells said.
Farida Mohamed, gave a lively history of the hijab and pointed out that the role of the head scarf is constantly changing.
“There are young Muslim women out there who want to wear tight clothes and yet cover their hair so the hijab is evolving,” Mohamed said.
Naqvi said there is no one answer why a woman will chose to wear a hijab, but her reasons are based on spirituality, a sense of control over her philosophical and ideological beliefs and the role models her parents set.
“I have seen the discrimination that this brings, particularly after Sept. 11,” she said of the rough ride given to Muslims after Islamic terrorists brought down the Twin Towers.
“I was looking for a part-time job then and I did well in a phone interview for a department store but when the manager saw me I was told the job was filled. I was once called ‘les sauvages’ when I was with my family in Walmart.
“I wear my hijab for the strength to rise above racism and misogyny,” Naqvi said.
“When I walk into my classroom my kids see me and not the hijab.”
The mother of three, whose family emigrated to Canada in the 1970s, added her thoughts to a presentation made by the Lester B. Pearson School Board against the adoption of the contentious bill.
“I wrote that children see people and adults see religion.”
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