A “Hijab Outcry” campaign broke out in Sweden over the past few days as several women have posted online photos of themselves wearing hijabs (Muslim headscarves) after a pregnant Muslim woman was allegedly attacked near Stockholm on Saturday for wearing a hijab. The attacker reportedly tore off the woman’s hijab and hit her head against a car until she passed out. The victim’s friends told local media that the assailant also shouted racist insults at her.
So far, the campaign has attracted women from numerous religions from all across Sweden and also includes prominent politicians and TV show hosts. Using the hashtag #hijabuppropet (hijab outcry), numerous women posted photos of themselves wearing hijabs on Twitter and other social media outlets.
The campaign is an extremely commendable initiative, considering the country's rise in hate crimes against Muslims. The fact that Swedish women are going out of their way to protest against the incident and help Muslims in Sweden feel supported truly exhibits their social awareness. If we can choose to be extremely sensitive about racial discrimination, we should apply the same dictates to religious discrimination. No one deserves to be discriminated against due to his or her religious beliefs or how he or she practices and implements tradition, if it's peaceful and doesn't harm others.
The hijab is more than just an accessory; It's a powerful symbol. Some believe that Muslim men pressure women to wear the hijab, and that it's an imposition, burden, or symbol of oppression. But this is not true at all. In fact, for most women, it is a matter of personal choice and preference. Some see it as a means of protection while others conceptualize it as a simple religious tradition they wish to fulfill.
The campaigners acknowledged the recent rise in hate crimes against Muslims. They said they wanted to draw attention to the "discrimination that affects Muslim women" in Sweden. "We believe that's reason enough in a country where the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims is on the rise — and where women tie their headscarves extra tight so that it won't get ripped off — for the prime minister and other politicians to take action to stop the march of fascism," they wrote in the Aftonbladet newspaper.
The attack on the pregnant Muslim woman also indicates a greater ill that of the rampant spread of Islamophobia by the mainstream media. The way the media continuously portrays Muslims in a negative light, associating their religion with politically motivated and radical Islamic elements, has an impact on the lives of ordinary Muslims. Most Muslims hate extremist Islamic militants as much as the West, if not more. The negative stereotyping of all Muslims is extremely dangerous and promotes xenophobic tendencies and increase incidents such as this one.
What the Swedish women have done is exactly what the world needs more of. Just a small gesture such as posting a picture of oneself wearing a hijab online can go a long way to reassure local Muslim residents in Sweden of the support of their fellow non-Muslim members of society. The campaign will also spread awareness among Swedes and around the world and prove to be a step in the right direction towards bringing an end to such hate crimes.
For now, here is link to a collection of posts by Swedish women involved in the #hijabuppropet hijab outcry campaign. The comments at the bottom of the page are heartwarming.