BRIDGING CULTURES BY DOUG WALSH
Welcome back to another instalment of Bridging Cultures, presented by the Multicultural Association of Pictou County (MAPC). Through this column, as well as our other activities, MAPC hopes to bridge cultures and connect people of all backgrounds.
Personally, I have been involved in the association for many years and have enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn about people from different countries and different cultures. I have also enjoyed learning about customs, traditions, food and more from places that I have never been to.
I thought I would take the opportunity in this month's column to speak with a couple of members of the Multicultural Association of Pictou County, Ilhem and her daughter Sarah, about the head scarf that they wear and learn more about it.
Hijab, which comes from the arabic “hajaba,” is the word associated with the head scarf worn by Muslim women. I was interested to learn that hijab also refers to a code of dressing with modesty, with the main purpose behind dressing in this manner to promote social justice. So what signifies dressing with modesty? In public it refers to dressing in a way that does not provoke others, reveal much of the body or shows off fancy clothes and jewelry. Not only is there a dress code for women but there is also a dress code for men. For women, it means wearing long loose-fitting garments with long sleeves and covering the head.
There are also a variety of other different coverings worn by Muslim women such as the burka and the niqab, both of which cover the face. Ilhem describes these as more of a cultural thing to wear in certain countries.
The wearing of the hijab has sometimes had some misconceptions surrounding it. Some see the women being forced to wear it or as being oppressed but as Ilhem told me it is a choice.
While this dress code is mandated in the Qur'an, the religious text of Islam, some people choose not to wear the hijab. Girls when they hit the age of puberty are required to cover up. However, a lot of people choose to before or after this age. Some girls, such as Sarah who is 10 1/2, start wearing the head scarf at an early age. Sarah told me that she wears the hijab because she likes to be identified as Muslim. Ilhem herself started wearing the hijab at a later age. She told me she wears it because it has brought her closer to Allah (God) and it also sets her out as who she is as a Muslim women. Is the head scarf worn all the time? No. While it is worn outside in public, it is not required at home if you are only around females or are around males who are within your family circle.
I hope that you found this column informational. Thank you to Ilhem and Sarah for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I would encourage people, if you have the opportunity to ask other questions, to not be shy to ask them because as Ilhem told me “knowledge is the key.”
I just wanted to finish by taking a moment to thank those who presented at the spring session of the MAPC international cooking classes. Thank you as well to everyone who attended these events. We look forward to seeing everyone out to the next round of classes in the fall. If you are looking for recipes from our most recent classes or some of the previous cooking classes, check out MAPC's website at www.multiculturalpc.ca. The Multicultural Association of Pictou County web page also has information about the group, events listings, photos and more. We also have a Facebook group which hosts similar articles.
A fairly recent addition for MAPC has been our Youtube channel which features promotional videos about our festivals and events as well as profile pieces on some of our members. Just go to the Youtube homepage and type in Multicultural Association of Pictou County. As always if you wish to contact us via e-mail you can write to info.MAPC@gmail.com to find out more information about MAPC and to get added to our mailing list.
Doug Walsh is Communications Officer for the Multicultural Association of Pictou County (MAPC).