Flowers handed out to women in hijab in response to hate crime at U of A LRT Station

Tehseenah Zahrah, a psychology student at the University of Alberta, was handed a carnation at the LRT platform on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. Dave Carels, Global News

Volunteers handed out carnations to women wearing hijabs at the University of Alberta LRT Station Wednesday in response to a hate crime there last month.

“We wanted to take back the message ‘this is for you’ and really put a positive spin on it,” local activist Janelle Venne said. “So: ‘this is for you’ with flowers.

“I’m hoping that we can help hijabi women feel as safe as other Canadians.”

READ MORE: Suspect in custody after women wearing hijabs threatened with noose at Edmonton LRT station: police 

Edmonton police said on the evening of Nov. 8, a man in his 60s walked up to two young women wearing hijabs and pulled a rope from his pocket. The man tied the rope into a noose and said “This is for you.”

The man then sang O Canada in front of the women. Police said one of the women captured the incident on cellphone video.

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On Tuesday, the Edmonton police said they had a suspect in custody in relation to the incident.

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Venne said that one individual does not represent Edmonton as a whole.

“We can make contributions every single day to help fight this xenophobia and make Canada a safe place to be.”

READ MORE: Sikh community receives ‘outpouring of support’ after racist posters found at University of Alberta 

She said her team was able to raise $500 within 24 hours in order to buy flowers to hand out. Venne said, if they have flowers left over, they’ll be back at the LRT station again on Thursday morning.

“It just takes a dollar or two to go and do a little something special. Ten dollars can give 20 flowers which is 20 smiles.”

All remaining funds will support the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council (AMPAC).

“The ultimate goal here is to make hijabi women feel safe,” Venne said. “They’ve already been targeted so much in the recent U.S. election and also the last Canadian federal election. We want to make sure they’re targeted for something a little more positive this time.”

Nakita Valerio, AMPAC’s vice president of external affairs, wears a hijab and wasn’t surprised by the hate crime.

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“A lot of people are expressing shock and for Muslim women, particularly hijabi women, there’s nothing very surprising about that,” Valerio said.

“A lot of us endure far worse and/or similar incidents of discrimination, harassment and violence daily.”

READ MORE: Another ‘unacceptable’ anti-Islam flyer shocks Edmonton resident 

Still, she said the situation outraged her, as a born and raised Edmontonian who is also a U of A student.

“The idea that it happened on the LRT platform that I visit every single day is not great, but I think we can transform that particular individual’s message socially,” Valerio said. “We’re hoping that at some point we can have a conversation with this person and engage in some kind of forgiveness and understanding.”

Tehseenah Zahrah, a psychology student at the university, was happy to see the negative message transformed into something positive.

“That’s everywhere. It happens,” she said. “It was nice. It kind of made my day. It was really sweet.”

AMPAC and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) are urging anyone who experiences Islamophobia in Alberta to call the AMPAC Islamophobia Help Hotline at 1-800-607-3312 and leave a message.

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