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November 7, 2006 > Wear a Hijab/Turban Day

Wear a Hijab/Turban Day

Commemorating our community members killed in the act of living

by Reshma Yunus

On October 27, several hundred community members from Fremont and neighboring cities came together to join the local Muslim community in honoring Alia Ansari who was killed on October 19, 2006. An unidentified assailant killed Ms. Ansari in front of her home while she was holding the hand of her three-year-old child in broad daylight. According to Fremont Chief of Police, Craig Steckler, no clear suspect and no obvious motive has been established; however, it is known that Ms. Ansari was wearing an Islamic headscarf known as a hijab. Family members suspect that the murder was motivated by hate towards Muslims and or Afghans.

Many women who attended the service, held at Lake Elizabeth, even those who were not Muslims, wore a headscarf or some type of head covering to demonstrate solidarity and sympathy with Ms. Ansari. The prayer service, known as 'salat - u - janaaza" (prayer for the deceased) was led by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf of Zaytuna Institute, a Muslim educational organization located in Hayward. Mayor Bob Wasserman attended the services along with council members Steve Cho, Anu Natarajan and Dominic Dutra. Other members from the city that attended were Susan Shenfil, from Human Resources and Irene Koehler, chair of Human Relations Commission. School board member Nina Moore was also present. The mood was somber and many expressed deep shock at a life so quickly and so tragically, and senselessly extinguished.

A group of women, friends of all faiths, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, have come together to pay tribute to Alia Ansari and to memorialize victims of violence. Melanie Gadener, president of Foundation for Self Reliance, who is spearheading this effort, said, "The murder of Ms. Ansari was an act of violence, and possibly an act of hate. It is in the spirit of solidarity that we have planned this day to honor Alia Ansari, and to express our deepest respect for her, and her faith."

The group, which includes a coalition of community members and civil liberties and violence prevention organizations, first planned to hold a "Wear a hijab day" so that other women could experience what it is like to wear an Islamic headscarf. They received feedback from within the group and outside, that this event could be a good opportunity to bring awareness and education about others who have been victims of prejudice or violence. Sikhs for example, have often been mistaken for Muslims and since 9/11, targeted for racial profiling and hate crimes.

The group decided to expand the platform to include others who may dress or look "differently." The day will include a noontime gathering at Lake Elizabeth on November 13. Attendees can wear a headscarf (for women) or a turban, or a hat or a yarmulke or just come as you are to stand in solidarity with each other and to observe a moment of silence for all victims of violence. Speakers will explain the significance of certain types of headgear and there will be "open mic" opportunity for everyone to express his or her thoughts. There will be a final release of doves, donated by James Love Doves.

For more information, please visit or call Melanie Gadener at (510) 797-4660.

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