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‘We can’t be held hostage to fear’: London, Ont. hijab event held to combat Islamophobia

Londoners came together in Victoria park in support of the Hijabs for Harmony event to combat Islamophobia Friday, June 18, 2021 . Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Both Muslim and non-Muslim women wore the hijab in Victoria Park as part of the National Call to Action Against Islamophobia Friday evening.

Around 80 Londoners gathered for a rally educating people on the hijab and need to combat Islamophobia in the wake of the killing of a London Ont. Muslim family.

The Hijabs for Harmony event started at 5 p.m. and featured several speakers from the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and was followed by a solidarity walk around Victoria Park and a moment of silence for the Azaal family.

The event was part of a number of gatherings held across the country to push the government to address the issue of Islamophobia in Canada.

Read more: Islamic Relief Canada compiling messages of hope for survivor of London, Ont. attack

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On June 6, 2021, four members of a London Muslim family were killed in what police have described as a hate-motivated and targeted attack.

The tragedy in London has put a spotlight on the issue of Islamophobia in Canada, and the need to take more action in addressing it.

Londoner and Muslim Association of Canada member Reem Sultan Friday June 18, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

“In a time when a lot of women are scared to go out with their scarf on because now they have become a visible minority, this show of support encourages them to continue on with the choice they have taken,” said Londoner and Muslim Association of Canada member Reem Sultan.

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Sultan says after the attack in London, she and her family were scared and wondered if they should leave their house because wearing the hijab made her visibly Muslim.

“To overcome it is my goal and the goal of other women; we can’t be held hostage to fear or to that Islamophobic attack.”

From this, Sultan hopes people will try and educate themselves about peoples’ differences and ask questions to better understand them.

“The most important message is with knowledge we can break down barriers. Don’t hesitate to ask questions because a lot of Muslim women will welcome that.”

Around 80 Londoners walked around Victoria Park in solidarity against Islamophobia as part of the Hijabs for Harmony event Friday June 18, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Londoner and Muslim, Safiya Shaikha says everyone should have the right to wear what they want.

“The hijab for me is not just a covering over the head, for me it’s my Islam, it’s not only a religion or what you believe spiritually, it’s a way of life,” Shaikha said.

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“The incident has affect all of us because we relate in many ways and its very important to be able to feel safe in the land that’s your home.”

London Barbara Legate organized the Hijabs for Harmony event on Friday, June 18, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Friday’s event was organized by Londoner Barbara Legate in partnership with MAS.

Legate, who is not a Muslim said it was important to show solidarity with Muslim woman and the community.

“Women are the target for the violence,” said Legate.

She said she took inspiration from the Headscarves for Harmony event that happed in Christchurch New Zealand following the mosque attack in 2019, where non-Muslim women wore the scare in solidarity.

“We don’t want it turn into a costume because its very important to the women who choose to wear it, but we wanted a viably display we are in this with you,” said Legate

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“Recognizing that we will go home and put them in the drawer, but they will continue to wear it.”

Read more: MPs unanimously back call for emergency summit on Islamophobia after London, Ont. attack

The suspect accused of killing the family is facing terrorism charges in the case.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, faces first-degree and attempted murder charges. New charges alleging the attack was an act of terrorism were unveiled Monday.

Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed in the attack. Fayez Afzaal, 9, was the lone survivor.

— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn LeBel, Stewart Bell, and Catherine McDonald

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