Helpline for Muslim women flooded with calls following Trump ban, Quebec shooting
NISA helpline director Tanweer Ebrahim says women are afraid to wear their hijabs in public
Nisa, an Arabic word for women, is a free, confidential helpline offering counseling services to Muslim women all across Canada and the U.S.
Director Tanweer Ebrahim said this week has been particularly difficult for the Muslim community.
"People are scared of the repercussions the ban will bring, and also after the Quebec shooting, people are frightened," she said.
She said Muslim women can feel particularly vulnerable in public places.
"Muslim women can easily be identified by their hijab, so they were asking what 'what should we do to protect ourselves and our children, should we remove our hijab?'" she said.
"We tell them don't remove it ... embrace your identity."
A difficult start to 2017
Apart from this week, calls to the helpline also spiked in the days before and after U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration. It averages around 500 calls a month and received more than 6,000 in all of 2016, according to Nisa's website.
Ebrahim said the expressions of support coming from the community have been uplifting despite the challenges of the past two months.
"It's been amazing to see other communities and religions standing in solidarity, not just nationally but also internationally, with leaders coming out and supporting the Muslim community," she said.
"February 1st was World Hijab Day, and non-Muslim women were coming out and saying, we have your back."
The helpline commonly receives calls from people experiencing domestic abuse and mental health challenges. They also answer common questions about religion practices and taboos.
"Our purpose is to offer that first-hand help to the caller," explained Ebrahim. "If we feel that this person needs additional professional help, we will then ask where they are so we can provide the resources that can better help them."
With files from Jacqueline Landry