“WHY DO YOU HAVE TO WEAR THAT THING HERE?” “Why don’t you just go back to where you came from?” That these kinds of remarks are ever voiced might seem far-fetched, almost cartoonishly so, but they are actually common enough that many Muslim women in Canada who wear the hijab hear them at some point in their lives—some even routinely.
In this case, it was at a long-term care facility in Ottawa in the mid-2000s. A older man and his ailing sister followed Amira Elghawaby down the hallway, hurling xenophobic comments at her for wearing a headscarf. Elghawaby was visiting her mother, who had multiple sclerosis, something she had done for years without incident. “My mother lived at that hospital. That was like my home … I had so many happy memories in that space,” she says. “I can’t emphasize enough how hurtful it is when it is addressed to you. It really does hurt—a lot.”
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