Maitland women have joined an escalating anti-racism movement by donning the hijab in demonstration of their support for social harmony and opposition to race hate.
The group of non-Muslim women have introduced the Women in Solidarity with Hijabis (#WISH) social media campaign to the city ahead of Saturday’s annual multicultural festival.
“By wearing a headscarf (hijab) we are offering our support to Australian Muslim woman and saying that to demonise a highly visible group of the Australian community is not acceptable,” Marg Wallin, of Raworth, said. “Law abiding freedom of expression is part of our way of life, we do not want to lose that tolerance because of political manipulation and scare tactics.”
Inspired by a non-Muslim woman who put on a hijab and posted her photo online, the campaign has attracted more than 20,000 Australians.
Among those who have shown their support is television journalist Jessica Rowe.
This staunch act of local support has been solidified after two female Muslim medical students were verbally abused in the Maitland Hospital car park
earlier this month while another two Muslim women were verbally attacked while driving in Newcastle on Tuesday.
“Hearing about these attacks makes me sick on both a personal and professional level,” Jan McDonald, manager of Carries Place Women’s and Children’s Services, said.
“Physical, verbal or any sort of emotional attack are a form of violence that is not acceptable in our community.
“This is all about drumming up fear and hate and when you get these two things together you get a nasty outcome which is usually some form of violence.”
The women have also issued a challenge for Maitland residents to wear a hijab to the weekend’s Riverlights Cultural Villages festival in central Maitland.
“It appears that moderation and tolerance are being pushed out the window and that’s my greatest fear but this festival will give us the opportunity to celebrate the riches that have been brought to this country by so many different cultures.
“Wouldn’t it be a really interesting thing if lots of women donned a hijab for the event?
“ I hope it would be statement that showed support for all Muslim women.”