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One Woman's Resistance: An Interview with Humera Siddiqi
Author: Zohra Goawala
Date: 2012-05-25 13:23:33
Category: all categories
Metatags: Canada, Islamaphobia, Muslim, Pakistani, Racism, Toronto, Women


Humera Siddiqi vividly recalls the day she landed in Toronto. It was the middle of February and she was exhilarated to see the city beautifully covered in snow. Before she built her life here, she envisioned Canada to be a place full of countless possibilities, a place where she could have a vibrant future with her family.

Humera has been living in Canada for 27 years and has raised 5 children here. Upon arrival in Canada, she made a conscious decision to wear traditional Pakistani clothing and hijab, refusing to wear Western attire. Even when she worked, she wore the clothing of her choice and ensured she was dressed in a Shalwar Kameez. Due to her resistance to conform to the norms of a Western society, she has fought numerous battles and has been a victim of Islamophobia, Humera strongly believes she has not received the recognition at work due to her race and religion but she hasn’t been afraid to speak out against the discrimination she has faced. She is aware that her clothing has drawn an adverse reaction from many over the years, yet she remains proud of her identity and refuses to let others deter her from her right to freely express herself.

For a short while, a few years ago, Humera made a decision to wear a Niqab. When I inquired why she decided to give it up, she stated she felt threatened and harassed after an incident at the supermarket. While she was shopping for groceries at Food Basics in 2002, another male customer at the store tore off her niqab and walked away. Humera was caught completely off guard and left feeling violated. Due to this incident and the perpetual judgmental stares she received by the public, she couldn’t feel safe wearing a Niqab. This is not an isolated incident of Islamophobia and racism she experienced. Humera recounts another incident at Scarborough Town center while she was standing in line for ice-cream with her brother. Another lady who had bought ice cream started abusing her and insulting her for being a Muslim. When Humera responded and retaliated to her name calling, the woman physically attacked her and jammed ice cream into her eye. Humera complained to the police and was disappointed by the apathetic response she received, she claims the police didn’t do anything to help her and discouraged her to file charges against the other customer; warning her that she could face charges as well.

Today, she lives in community housing in St. Jamestown and has the position of a tenant representative. Most families residing in her building are low income newcomers. Through her position, Humera voices the complaints of other tenants and protests if appropriate action isn’t taken. Humera also faced maintenance issues in 2009, when mould started growing in her apartment. She complains that it took 3 years for the building to take action and that complaining once to the inspector wasn’t sufficient. The issue was ignored and unresolved until she spoke out publicly at a Toronto Community Housing Council meeting where public health officials were present. The mould was finally removed a couple of weeks ago.

Even with the experiences that have challenged her sense of belonging, she remains optimistic about the future. She is actively involved in the community and is co-chair of the St. Jamestown Community Corner. Her ambition is to acquire a degree in Community Development to supplement her work experience.

My interview with Humera left me feeling inspired by her unwavering strength to speak out against the injustices she faced and her relentless dedication as a community organizer. In her daily acts of resistance, Humera defies all racist Islamophobic and sexist stereotypes about Muslim women.



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