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These Women Responded To Disturbing Anti-Muslim Hate By Giving Flowers To Hijabis

"It was just a lot of smiles and tears and gratitude."

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After a hateful incident last month at an Edmonton LRT station, volunteers brought back a little love this week by handing out flowers to women in hijabs.

Nakita Valerio

In November, a man reportedly walked up to two hijabi women at the University of Alberta LRT station and tied a noose. “This is for you!” he said, according to police, before singing "O Canada."

Police seek public’s assistance to identify LRT hate crime suspect: The Edmonton Police Service is asking for the…… https://t.co/36gzuKjtig

The police had a suspect in custody, but they were released without charges.

Wanting Muslim women to feel safer in the wake of the incident, local activist Janelle Venne came up with the idea to hand out flowers to hijabis as they passed through the station.

Nakita Valerio (centre), a graduate student, saw Venne's callout and jumped on board."I thought it was first of all beautiful, I would love to be a person to receive that flower," Valerio told BuzzFeed Canada. "A non-Muslim taking the initiative to make Muslim women feel safe and comfortable in the city — it was just something that had to be endorsed."
Nakita Valerio

Nakita Valerio (centre), a graduate student, saw Venne's callout and jumped on board.

"I thought it was first of all beautiful, I would love to be a person to receive that flower," Valerio told BuzzFeed Canada. "A non-Muslim taking the initiative to make Muslim women feel safe and comfortable in the city — it was just something that had to be endorsed."

On Wednesday, Valerio, Venne, and other volunteers spent more than four hours handing out carnations to hijabis at the same station where the incident took place.

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"It was just a lot of smiles and tears and gratitude and just happiness about the kindness that we were putting into the world," Valerio.

"The best part of the day for me was having those quiet moments with people, and saying this is for you. That kind of contact is lost a little bit these days and facilitating that was really powerful on a personal level."

They also found heartwarming support from many non-Muslim people, from thumbs-up at the LRT station to a warm pair of gloves.

Facebook: nakita.valerio

Valerio wrote about the moments of kindness in a Facebook note, including a man who offered to give her a ride to the LRT station. Another man — who turned out to be the Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the university — stopped to give her chocolate and coffee.

The group managed to raise hundreds of dollars for the flowers and the extra proceeds will go to the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, where Valerio serves as a VP.

Valerio said people have been asking her what they can do to support Muslims in Alberta, and AMPAC is an organization that does just that.Zeb Qureshi, an AMPAC spokesperson, said they've seen a rise in anti-Muslim activity in recent months. Events like the flower giveaway offer a positive counter message to that."Let's meet that hatred with love and kindness and respect," Qureshi told BuzzFeed Canada.
Nakita Valerio

Valerio said people have been asking her what they can do to support Muslims in Alberta, and AMPAC is an organization that does just that.

Zeb Qureshi, an AMPAC spokesperson, said they've seen a rise in anti-Muslim activity in recent months. Events like the flower giveaway offer a positive counter message to that.

"Let's meet that hatred with love and kindness and respect," Qureshi told BuzzFeed Canada.

Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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