Metro Morning

Family asks woman to take off hijab out of safety fears

After several attacks — both verbal and physical — against Muslims wearing religious head coverings, one Toronto woman's father has asked her to remove her hijab for her own safety.

Farheen Khan was attacked in the past, she believes for wearing the hijab

Farheen Khan will not remove her hijab, despite her father's request. (Farheen Khan/Facebook)

This past week has been unnerving, if not outright scary, for people who are Muslim in Toronto.

There were several attacks — both verbal and physical — against Muslims wearing religious head coverings. There have been demonstrations and initiatives standing up to that intolerance. 

But it's put pressure on those who wear hijabs, niqabs and other Islamic clothing.

Farheen Khan wears a hijab, and feels that very pressure.

But she feels it from within her own family: her father asked her to remove her hijab for her own safety.

Khan's father is a religious man, who started the first mosque in Mississauga. "It really meant something for him to say it," said Khan.

He suggested she take it off for just a couple of months, until the anti-Muslim sentiment cools off.

His concerns are not solely based on recent events. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khan was assaulted as she was walking into an apartment building. The man who assaulted her, she said, blamed her for what happened that day.

"You start to wonder what did you do wrong, you keep repeating it in your mind," she said. "At the end of the day, I had to reconcile that it was because of the hijab."

Khan ran in the federal election for the NDP, and was one of the only people who wore hijab running in her riding. She said she felt a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment, but will not remove her hijab.

"This is something that is a part of who I am, and I'm not going to change it," she told her father.

As a result, Khan is working on a website that collects similar experiences from other people in the city. She is in the midst of doing interviews for it, and plans to launch on Nov. 25 in conjunction with International Day for Violence Against Women.

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