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Wear a Hijab Day - Nov 13

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    WEARING HIJAB ON NOV. 13 HONORS SLAIN AFGHAN MOTHER Sue Hutchison Mercury News 11/6/06 http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/columnists/15940994.htm
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 6, 2006
      Sue Hutchison
      Mercury News

      Melanie Gadener was at home in Fremont three weeks ago when she began
      receiving calls about the killing of Alia Ansari, the 38-year-old
      mother of six who was shot in the head as she walked with her little
      girl through a quiet Fremont neighborhood to pick up her children at
      Glenmoor Elementary School.

      Very quickly, Gadener was struck with the same suspicion as many
      others in town. They wondered if Ansari was killed simply because of
      the way she was dressed, in a loose scarf that some Muslim women wear
      to cover their heads out of modesty.

      ``I was shocked and saddened, but I was not surprised,'' Gadener told
      me when we met recently. ``There is growing racism in Fremont, and a
      lot of this has come out since 9/11.'' Whether or not Ansari's head
      scarf had anything to do with why she was killed, it's significant
      that so many people have no trouble believing it was the reason.

      Support for Afghans

      Gadener has been especially sensitive to these tensions since she set
      up the Foundation for Self-Reliance, a non-profit organization that
      develops programs to promote economic independence in the Afghan
      community. Over the past three years, she has had a crash course in
      Muslim beliefs and traditions.

      ``I've learned not to be afraid to ask questions and be honest about
      my own ignorance,'' Gadener said. ``We've got to bring the
      conversation to the table.''

      In that spirit, she had an idea about how to memorialize Alia Ansari.
      What if women of all religions pledged to wear a Muslim head covering,
      a hijab, for one day? It would not only show support for the Ansari
      family, but it also would be an intriguing social experiment. How
      might people treat you differently if, for one day, the only thing
      different about you was what you were wearing on your head?

      Nov. 13 was the date chosen for ``Wear a Hijab Day,'' and the plan has
      taken on a life of its own. Gadener has been deluged with messages of
      support from all over the world. Soon it became clear that men wanted
      to participate as well, so the event's title was changed to ``Wear a
      Hijab or Turban Day.''

      Sikhs included, too

      Reshma Yunus, who is active in the Muslim community and the founder of
      Semah, a domestic violence-prevention organization based in Newark,
      said she suggested adding turbans to the event because many Sikh men
      also have been victims of the backlash since Sept. 11, even though
      they are not Muslim.

      ``This is another version of walk-in-another-person's-moccasins,''
      Yunus said. ``It's just walk-in-another-person's-headgear.''

      Gadener is still setting up a panel to speak at noon next Monday at
      Lake Elizabeth in Central Park, 40000 Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont.
      And Shahla Arsala, a prominent member of Fremont's Afghan community,
      said she hopes that those who show up aren't there only as a gesture
      of solidarity. ``I'm hoping that people really come to get educated,
      too,'' she said. ``I'm looking forward to learning from other Muslim
      women who wear head scarves, since I do not.''

      Samina Sundas, executive director of American Muslim Voice in Newark,
      said many more days like Nov. 13 will be needed. ``Getting to really
      know each other is now a matter of survival,'' she said. ``There's no
      way we can break down barriers if we only embrace what we believe in
      and live behind closed doors.''

      Alia Ansari may be remembered not only as a devoted mother of six but
      also as a woman who helped her neighbors to understand each other.



      For more information about ``Wear a Hijab or Turban Day,'' go to

      Contact Sue Hutchison at shutchison @ mercurynews.com.



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