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San Diego Rally Shows Support For Muslim Women

Photo by Andrew Bowen

A speaker addresses the crowd at a rally in solidarity with Muslim woman at Balboa Park, Jan. 18. 2016.

Aired 1/19/16 on KPBS News.

About 400 people attended a rally Monday showing solidarity with Muslim women, many of whom said they've seen an upsurge in prejudice in recent months.

About 400 people attended a rally in Balboa Park on Monday to show solidarity with Muslim women.

Speakers recounted experiences of bigotry, particularly amid a political backlash after the attacks in San Bernardino.

"I think with the elections and everything that’s happening I think there’s a lot of political candidates that are using Muslims as a scapegoat," said Homayra Yusufi-Marin, a policy advocate for the regional branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. "I think that it’s important for all of our allies and communities to really stand together and say that this is not the America we believe in."

Yusufi-Marin added that while she has experienced small examples of anti-Muslim prejudice, she found San Diego to be very welcoming and open to different religions and cultures.

A woman helps adjust another woman's hijab at a rally in solidarity with Muslim women in Balboa Park, Jan. 18, 2016.

The rally was co-sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Islamic Center of San Diego, the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice and the League of Women Voters of San Diego.

Jeanne Brown, president of the League of Women Voters of San Diego, said Muslim women are often stereotyped as uneducated and subservient to their husbands.

"The Muslim women we know are not like that at all," she said. "Our community needs to welcome them, as we have with all the other groups that have come to San Diego."

Organizers passed out hijabs, or headscarves, for non-Muslim women to wear in solidarity.

The hijab itself, which some Muslim women choose not to wear, remains a controversial issue. Two Muslim women journalists recently editorialized in the Washington Post against wearing the veil “in solidarity.” Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa wrote:

"Please do this instead: Do not wear a headscarf in 'solidarity' with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with 'honor.' Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair."

In San Diego, accommodating Islamic interpretations of modesty for women led to the City Heights YMCA to create special hours for female-only swimming. The move generated a debate over whether making it easier for women to wear the veil and separate from men was itself a form of discrimination.

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