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'My hijab, my right' campaign raises awareness of violations of Muslim rights in India, and eyebrows in Chicago at its mixed message

María Paula Mijares Torres, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Religious News

Although there is a portion of it that does talk about standing “in solidarity with the oppressed in India and worldwide,” Makki said that most Americans are still not aware of the situation in India. “A person driving on 294 seeing the billboard for like two seconds might be a little confused about the situation in India. Especially because the main point is about a woman defending her right to wear a headscarf, but that is a protected right in the United States.”

Makki, who has been involved in activism campaigns, said that a hashtag or advertisements in local newspapers would be a better way to raise awareness. The billboard has three hashtags: #MuskanKhan, #HijabMyRight and #EducationMyRight.

“I think that if Americans knew about (the situation in India), they would care about it because it’s about the protection of religious freedom, and that’s an issue that Americans do care about,” Makki said. “So I think, maybe less focus on the image of a woman wearing a headscarf and more on the fact that India seems to be rolling back its protections of its religious minorities. And I’m saying that because I’m a Muslim woman, I wear a headscarf and this piece of clothing that I really spend maybe 30 seconds thinking about wearing every morning just to decide which matches the outfit that I want to wear is something unfortunately, other people have politicized so much ... I think that the issue in India is more than that.”

Ahmed, the GainPeace director, has received “two messages (like Makki’s opinion) out of a hundred positive ones.” He and Abdul-Jaleel said that this was the best way to communicate the message because they cannot “write a whole paragraph in a billboard.”

GainPeace hopes that people call the hotline (1-800-662-ISLAM) on the billboard or visit the website gainpeace.com to learn more about the situation in India, and get any questions answered about the Muslim religion, which there might be during the month of Ramadan. The hotline has received around 35 calls so far.

 

The billboard facing south on the northbound side of I-294, a half-mile before I-290, will be on display until April 22 and the GainPeace chapters in Detroit are working on putting a billboard with the same design in their community.

Mosques all over Chicago are organizing events where non-Muslims can join their Muslim neighbors to break fast and learn about their traditions. Additionally, Ahmed said that many mosques in the Chicago area are meeting with local representatives and legislators to raise awareness of the human rights issues in India involving Muslims.

“When our neighbors come inside the mosques and break bread with us, it’s just a whole different feeling,” Aamer Abdul-Jaleel said. “They leave happy because they’re just reading and hearing about Islam through the media, which doesn’t necessarily portray Islam in a positive light. But when they see what’s going on and they see what the prayer is like, they are like: ‘I can’t believe we used to live here for so many years and we never entered into the mosque.’ ”

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