You may have seen some brightly coloured new bus banners in Regina this week.
The ads, which feature an illustration of a woman wearing a hijab, were created by the local chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Sisters. They feel there’s a lack of awareness about why women wear the hijab.
“The first and foremost misconception people have about the hijab is that Muslim women are oppressed and there’s a need to free them,” said ICNA member Aisha Siddique. “People think we are forced by our male family members, our husbands, fathers, or sons, but that’s not the reason, we do it by our own choice.”
Siddique explained she wears the hijab both as a way to express her faith and her lifestyle.
“Literally the word ‘hijab’ translates as modesty. It’s a code of life for me which gives me the way I talk, walk, think, the way I interact with the community. All of that. It’s not just a piece of cloth,” Siddique said.
The ICNA Sisters occasionally sets up tables in malls as a way to spread this message, but Siddique says the bus ads will allow them to reach a wider audience.
“We’ve found that people are really interested in learning about Islam and the Hijab, but we weren’t able to reach a large number of people.”
The ad features the slogan “My Choice. My Pride. My Strength.” Siddique explained the meaning behind the words.
“It’s ‘My Choice,’ my free will to choose to wear it. Interestingly, when I started wearing hijab it changed my perspective about freedom. It makes me free from the slavery of billion-dollar cosmetic and fashion industry.”
“Another point in the message is ‘My Pride.’ So I take pride in wearing it, I take pride in my religious identity.”
The words ‘My Strength,’ she explained, symbolize the courage of those who wear the hijab to stand up against social norms and preserve their modesty.
Siddique also said the ICNA is concerned that Islamophobia is on the rise in Canada.
“We took this opportunity to open up the door for conversation. To let the people know more about Islam and the hijab. To make the community more inclusive. All people have the right to live here. We all belong to this earth and world together,” Siddique said.