CAIRO - Reaching out to their society about their beliefs, a group of Muslim female students in Canada have established a club to clear misconceptions long associated with their faith.
"It's not only to show our own culture, it's to share my ways of helping people," Hayfaa Golabkhan, who came up with the idea for the Muslim Sisters Club, told Kamloops Daily News on Monday, April 2.
Eager to inform, educate and teach people about their beliefs, a group of students at Thompson Rivers University came up with the idea of the club after encountering different stereotyping incidents in their community.
Meeting through TRU's Muslim Student Association or the social website Facebook, about 35 members joined the new club.
One of the members is Lamyaa Alshenrifi, a student at the TRU, who was accused by her teacher of English of being rude for refusing to shake hands with men.
As she was not fluent in English, Alshenrifi could not explain to the teacher that in her culture women can shake hands with other women, but not with men who are not family.
The instructor wouldn't allow her the time to tell her side, leaving her feelings hurt.
"If the teacher could give us the time to explain, and be respectful . . . " she said.
May Almohanna, now a member of the Muslim Sisters Club, picked up her thought.
"When you face that kind of situation, it really hurts. Because you really love your religion," she said.
Without the words to take on a wrongful accusation "it just burns you up inside," she added.
Almohanna said club members want to hold more events to further understanding about what it means to be Muslim and a woman.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
Holding their first event, the club organized a lunch presentation about being Muslim women with lots of time to answer questions and clear up misconceptions.
During the event, attended by about 30 people, Muslim women met non-Muslims who were eager to learn more about life as a Muslim woman living in Kamloops.
"I choose to wear what I wear. I choose Muslimism," said Alshenrifi, who has been at TRU for one year.
Explaining hijab as an obligatory code of dress in Islam, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations, participants were invited to share the experience of wearing hijab.
Four women, all of them white, volunteered to wear hijab for the duration of the presentation to experience how it feels.
Club members argued that hijab keeps women safe, taking away the element of sexuality.
"A Muslim woman expects respect by it," Almohanna told the audience.
Members answered questions from attendees about their religion, in an effort to clear up myths and misunderstandings.
"Don't trust Wikipedia," said Safiya Alshibani.