A Swedish shopping center has apologized after painting over a woman’s hijab with hair in a mural meant to celebrate the community’s diversity.
Burlövs shopping center commissioned two youth groups to paint a mural reflecting the local diversity. But when a hijab began to appear in the mural, the mall’s management told the youth groups the headscarf was unacceptable as the center is secular and does not want any religious symbols in its artwork.
The hijab was then spray painted over with hair to hide the headscarf.
“Young people are angry and sad. They have grown up in this municipality. They are proud of the diversity and want to show it off as something beautiful. But they have been trampled on. Their reality is not good enough. Their friends are not welcome and may not be visible in the public space,” Pia Jönsson, whose husband Magnus Heberlein works for a local anti-racism group, wrote on Facebook. “What is the message you are sending to your customers? How can you play into the hands of racists in such a disgusting way?”
The shopping mall’s owner, Grosvenor Fund Management, released a statement online apologizing for the egregious discrimination.
“We apologize that a mural of a woman in a hijab was considered a religious symbol and was therefore altered,” the statement read. “That the picture was changed was unfortunate. For us it is important to welcome all customers regardless of their religion, ethnicity or sex.”
The hijab has since been repainted back on the mural following the outrage.
Not only does this censorship demonstrate another strong act of the West’s Islamophobia but also highlights its misunderstanding and ignorance towards Islam. In Western countries like France and Sweden, the hijab has been banned in favor of secularist values and assimilation, but in our further globalized world strengthening and embracing diversity and bridging those gaps is becoming increasingly more vital. Unfortunately, Westerners’ attitudes have still a long way to go in building those cultural bridges and unity.
Banner image credit: Facebook user: Pia Jönsson