I’ll ride with you: the hijab and human rights
When it comes to human rights, every action – no matter how small it seems – counts. Earlier this week, the world watched in horror as a gunman held people hostage in a café in Sydney, Australia. The stand-off ended in tragedy, with the death of the gunman and two hostages. The gunman was a self-styled Muslim cleric, and there were concerns that members of the Australian Muslim community may be targeted for revenge.
Then something unexpected happened.
While riding the train, Rachael Jacobs saw a woman sitting next to her remove her hijab (a hijab is a head-covering veil or scarf). Rachael presumed the woman was Muslim and had removed her hijab in fear of retaliation. “I ran after her at the train station,” Rachael relayed on Facebook. “I said, ‘Put it back on. I’ll walk with u.’ She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute – then walked off alone.”
Rachael’s small act of compassion would lead to big things. A Twitter user named “Sir Tessa” was inspired to offer to accompany anyone who took the same bus as her and didn’t feel safe wearing their religious attire. She tweeted under the hashtag #illridewithyou, and a movement was born.
Thousands of people have joined the campaign, offering to ride with Muslims on public transportation in Australia. There were 40,000 tweets using the hashtag #illridewithyou in just two hours; it rose to 150,000 within four hours and continued to grow after that. It is a tremendous example of compassion and human rights winning out thanks to the actions of many – proof that every action counts.
The CMHR relays the importance of individual acts. One of our galleries is called Actions Count and shares stories of Canadians who have made a difference. It includes a story focused on the hijab.
Ce qui nous voile (What Veils Us) is focused on Muslim women in Québec who choose to wear the hijab. Montréal community activist Andréanne Pâquet teamed up with photographer Éric Piché to create portraits of 53 Muslim women from varied backgrounds, cultures and ages, and displayed the images with text panels that explain why they choose to wear the hijab. The exhibition has allowed many Quebecers to begin an important discussion about women’s rights, religious rights and freedom of expression. Pâquet originally launched the project in 2010, but given recent events in Canada and Australia, her exhibition is perhaps more topical than ever.
Both Ce qui nous voile and #illridewithyou serve as examples of how every person can make a difference for human rights, one action at a time. Ce qui nous voile can be found in the Actions Count gallery at the Museum. You can also learn more on Ce qui nous voile’s Facebook page. Andréanne wrote a guest blog in 2013 entitled: Guest post: What veils us.