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Hijab-wearing teen finds new confidence after positive encounter with stranger

Last Updated Jun 6, 2021 at 9:21 am MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) — An interaction between a Calgary teenager and a complete stranger at Prince’s Island Park was memorable for all the right reasons.

Teenager Tayyabeen Kazmi, 18, says the surprising encounter with the stranger — at a park recently linked with an alleged racially motivated attack — left a smile on her face.

“We were having a small picnic and so we were just leaving our way,” recounted Kazmi. “We couldn’t just walk alone so we were just waiting for a big group of people, so we could exit the park with them and we saw a guy approaching us. His smile got bigger and bigger and he said, ‘can I say something to you beautiful ladies?’

“He turned towards me and said, ‘the hijab that you are wearing…’ the fact that he knew the term, it was really nice to know. He goes on to say, ‘the hijab you are wearing, it’s so beautiful, it’s so nice to see that you are wearing this modest outfit in this hot weather.’

“Appreciating us the way we are, encouraging young girls who are scared to leave their house wearing the hijab now, I feel so confident now after that.”

Handout photo of Tayyabeen Kazmi, who says she had a pleasant encounter with a complete stranger at Prince’s Island Park. (Credit: Tayyabeen Kazmi/HO)

It’s a much different interaction from the one that took place at Prince’s Island Park in March, when police say a woman hurled racially motivated slurs at a Muslim woman, tore off her hijab and punched and kicked her.

The suspect was charged with common assault, mischief and causing a disturbance in public.

WATCH: Calgary woman attacked in “racially motivated hate crime” (March 22, 2021)

“Prince’s Island Park, there has been an incident before where someone’s hijab got snatched. So before going there we were quite hesitant,” said Kazmi, a business technology management student at the University of Calgary.

“With the whole negativity that’s going around, it’s really nice to have people go out of their way and spread positivity.”

Kazmi’s mother Sabeen, a teacher, says the family has experienced both good and bad moments since moving to Canada from Pakistan eight years ago. She strongly believes diversity is not only the culture of Canada but its real beauty.

“The best way to change people’s mind is to tell them that we are like-minded people. We accept your views and we want you to accept us,” she said.

Kazmi says she has shared her story in the hopes that other girls would get inspired to lead their life the way they want and dress the way they like, without the fear of being harassed and judged.