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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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Originally Published by the Vancouver Star, February 13, 2011

By Ryan Cormier


EDMONTON — The city’s inaugural Purple Hijab Day to raise awareness about domestic abuse was held in Edmonton on Saturday.

The event, organized by members of the city’s Muslim community, was meant to condemn abuse against all victims, but also to educate people that such violence is not accepted by Muslim culture.

“This isn’t just a fight against domestic violence itself,” said Sanaa Tariq, 21, who hosted the event. “It’s a fight to show that we care about it. If someone is bad in one group of people, it doesn’t mean the group will be. Domestic violence has nothing to do with race, religion or sex, it has to do with mental health.”

Muslim women should not be regarded as oppressed, Tariq said, pointing out that she would not be able to organize such an event were that true. Too often, she said, a domestic incident in a Muslim home is projected upon the group as a whole while other groups do not experience the same stereotype.

Tariq, who was born in Iran, lived in Pakistan and has called Edmonton home for a decade, said the colour purple represents the cause of family violence and the hijab represents the Muslim community.

Jan Reimer, head of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, applauded Purple Hijab Day and the message it brings.

“No one has a corner on abuse, this is an issue for all religions, all walks of life, no one is immune,” she said. “The more we encourage the whole community to talk about it, the more we will end it.”

Yoosuf Penney, who converted to Islam at 18, spoke at the event to say that a balance must be struck between acknowledging abuse among Muslims, but not allowing the problem to become associated with the community.

“Denying a problem exists is the best way to never find a solution,” he said, “though this problem is not indicative of what Muslim families do. A family, in Islam, serves as protection and support.”

While organizing the event, Tariq, a business student at NAIT, was often asked if she was involved because of a personal experience with abuse, a question she believes may be part of the problem.

“My answer was always no. You don’t have to be physically involved to be affected by it. We all have to make changes and step up.”

Purple Hijab Day has been organized in both England and the United States, as well as Canadian cities like Toronto.



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