Dalhousie offers 'emergency hijab kits' for women facing violence on campus

The president of the Dalhousie Student Union says she knows a number of women on campus who have told her their hijabs were yanked off while they were attacked because of their religion.

Dalhousie Student Union president says a number of Muslim women have had their hijabs yanked off

Amina Abawajy, president of the Dalhousie University Student Union, which is now offering 'emergency hijab kits,' says she knows a number of women on campus who have told her they were victims of violence, but few decide to tell school officials. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Dalhousie University is now offering "emergency hijab kits" to women who need a replacement, amid reports of Muslim students being attacked for their religion and having their headdresses yanked off.

The president of the Dalhousie Student Union said she knows a number of women on campus who have told her they were victims of such violence, although few decide to tell school officials.

"This is a proactive measure, but it's not unfounded," Amina Abawajy said.

Anyone who quickly needs a new hijab can call Dalhousie security services, which will deliver a kit to them anywhere on campus. The kits include a piece of fabric, pins, a small guide on how to wrap the hijab and important numbers for reporting such crimes.

The Dalhousie Student Union and Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group are behind the project, which was launched after many students said they were concerned for their safety following the shooting earlier this year at a Quebec City mosque.

"We were hearing a lot of concerns, specifically from Muslim women wearing the hijab, so we responded by creating this emergency hijab kit," Abawajy said.

The kit was introduced about a week ago and includes tips for bystanders who witness a woman having her hijab pulled off. No incidents of violence have been reported to the university.

Abawajy said she previously was told of cases on campus and off.

"I don't know if they have been necessarily reported, but just by being a member of the Muslim community, people have come to me and let me know." 

The emergency hijab kits include a piece of fabric, pins, a small guide on how to wrap the hijab and important numbers for reporting crimes. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Another aim of the kits is to help people become more aware of violence faced by women who wear hijabs, according to Clark MacIntosh, a co-ordinator with the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group.

"Our hope is that by having these replacement head coverings available, students might feel more comfortable reporting crimes against them," MacIntosh said.

Abawajy started wearing a hijab when she was in Grade 9 and said she has experienced Islamophobia growing up in Halifax.

"Walking down the streets, I have people telling me not to bomb them and to go home," she said.

She also said she still has people who welcome her to Canada, even though she was born in this country.

"It seems innocent and welcoming, but what that says is that you don't look like you could be Canadian."

Positive feedback

The kits are available at the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group office, Dalhousie Student Union information desk and 24/7 through Dal Security.

"I already heard a lot of positive feedback from the community, and personally I do feel safe knowing that these are in places such as security," Abawajy said.

There has also been demand for the kits from various faculties at the university that have asked they be available in their buildings.

"We are excited that communities are stepping up and ensuring that Muslims are feeling safe," Abawajy said.

About the Author

Aya Al-Hakim

Reporter

Aya Al-Hakim is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached at aya.al-hakim@cbc.ca.