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Choosing to Say "Hands off the Hijab"
Choosing to Say "Hands off the Hijab"

by Kathy Slade

I had tried to talk Linnie out of going to the protest as she had another obligation. I said she'd be one person among thousands and her being there would not matter as much as it would at the meeting she was supposed to attend. But she persisted and got out of her meeting.

Four women gather around a sign that says "Hands off the Hijab" at a protest against the immigration ban by Donald Trump in Boston's Copley Square.

Linnie McGuire (center) in Boston’s Copley Square with newly met co-protestors against President Trump’s anti-Muslim ban. Photo by Kathy Slade.

Linnie and I were conspicuously the only people on the T with signs, which I kept tucked by my side. After a while the man standing next to me held up his phone showing the immigration ban protest event on Facebook and asked if we were going. I laughed, pointing to my signs, saying "How did you guess?"  He said he'd sent a text of our sign to his wife. I looked to see which sign was facing him. It was Linnie's sign, "Hands off the Hijab." He said his wife liked it. He was meeting friends at the protest and his wife was newly expecting and very tired so staying home. She wears hijab. We asked him to tell her we were going for her. We talked like old friends and he let us know the T stop we were heading to was closed and he led us to another and together we found our way to the protest. We parted ways at Copley Plaza having exchanged names and stories. 

As Linnie and I merged into the periphery of the crowd, women in hijab would spot Linnie's sign and mouth “thank you” as they passed. As one pair of women in hijab approached they burst into tears. One went to hug Linnie and thank her, and the other buried her face in her hands and sobbed. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. When she looked up we hugged... as I whispered in her ear "It's going to be ok" she cried and hugged harder. They switched places and we each repeated the same. 

As I wiped the tears of strangers, I admitted I had been wrong: It mattered.

Next Steps!

For parents and other religious educators, now is an opportune time to acquaint children, youth, and ourselves with Islam. Young children will enjoy the stories and illustrations in Ayat Jamilah, Beautiful Signs: A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents, by Sarah Conover and Freda Crane; find audio files of stories from this book online. Also by Sarah Conover, Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer engages grade schoolers through adults with the beginnings of Islam. An adult book from Skinner House that promotes interfaith understanding is Children of the Same God: The Historical Relationship Between Judaism, Islam and Unitarianism by Susan Ritchie.

The UU College of Social Justice provides an online toolkit for getting involved with today's sanctuary and solidarity movements. Included is a recorded webinar the offers inspiration from grassroots leaders from communities at high risk and members of UU congregations that are currently taking action.

The Tapestry of Faith curriculum Building Bridges, for older middle-schoolers through high school youth, explores a wide breadth of faiths in order to build both UU identity and interfaith understanding, With two workshops devoted to Islam, this program offers stories, readings, and activities that can be used in a modular way to familiarize a group (or, your family) with Muslim history and contemporary experience.

Finally, are you searching for words about the UU connection to acting for social justice and resources for making it happen? Check out this page on the UUA website and an article it links to, "Nurturing a Ministry of Activism," by Rev. Victoria Weinstein.

Kathy Slade, a white woman, stands with her young adult daughter, Linnie McGuire, outside the Dublin, Ireland Unitarian church.

About the Blogger

Kathy Slade (left) and her daughter, Linnie McGuire, members of The North Parish of North Andover, Massachusetts, attended an Immigration Ban Protest on January 29, 2017 in Boston’s Copley Square.

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For more information contact callandresponse@uua.org.