'Hijab appeal' campaign divides Sweden

'Hijab appeal' campaign divides Sweden
Bilan Osman (L) and Fatima Doubakil (R), two of the initiator's of the "hijab outcry" campaign are pictured in front of the government building on August 20, 2013 in Stockholm,

STOCKHOLM - In gender-equality Sweden, a grassroots movement defending women's right to wear hijab has split the nation, backed by politicians and celebrities while critics say it supports a symbol of female "oppression".

Hundreds of Swedish women have posted photographs of themselves wearing headscarves on social media sites to show solidarity with a heavily pregnant Muslim woman who says she was attacked outside Stockholm for wearing a veil.

Police are searching for witnesses to the incident, which is being treated as a hate crime, and has sparked a wave of online protest.

Leftist politicians and celebrities were among those who lent their support to the movement, dubbed "The hijab appeal", by tweeting pictures of themselves wearing the Islamic headscarf.

By Thursday, more than 2,000 people had posted pictures tagged with the "hijab appeal" hashtag on Instagram, mostly featuring women of different faiths wearing the veil.

A Facebook "event" page set up by the activists garnered 10,000 attendees but had to be removed after the comments section was swamped with racist and sexist remarks.

"The number of hate crimes against Muslim women has increased lately," one of the campaign organisers, Foujan Rouzbeh, told AFP.

However, critics say the campaign trivialises the suffering of women forced or pressured into covering their heads, in Sweden and elsewhere.

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