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Chicago's Hijab Billboard Campaign Seeks To Educate

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A billboard campaign seeks to educate Chicago-area drivers about a traditional garment worn by some Muslim women.

For six weeks, billboards along the Tri-State Tollway and I-55 will feature women wearing the hijab, a veil covering the head and chest.

Kiran Malik says when her daughter, Imaan, wanted to wear a hijab to high school, she had one question.

"I was like, are you sure? I was afraid. I was afraid for her."

Malik knew from her own experience what might follow. One driver, upon seeing her wearing the garment, attempted to force Malik off the road.

"Right on 59 in Streamwood. He drove me into oncoming traffic with my kids in the car, spewing out words, like, 'go back to your country,'" she said.

Instances such as these are why Malik, along with other members of the Muslim group GainPeace, wanted the billboards, to demonstrate the hijab as a symbol of empowerment and devotion to their religion.

The hope is to dispel what they call negative stereotypes about Muslim women.

"I choose to wear the hijab so I follow the command of God," said Sara Barday, a GainPeace member. "Wearing the hijab is 100 percent my choice. As contrary to the popular believe, hijab in no way oppresses us."

While 17-year-old Imaan now wears the hijab, it is not without feeling the sting of bigotry.

"Some kids will come to me and call me, 'why don't you go back to your country, you terrorist.'"

Two billboards may not change the hearts of bigots, but they believe it will be a start.

"Just because I wear the hijab, or I dress a certain way, it shouldn't be threatening," Malik said.

Everyone CBS 2's Jim Williams spoke with emphasized the vast majority of people they encounter are respectful. Furthermore, they are encouraging others to ask questions about the hijab and Islam, which is why they've included a phone number on the billboards.

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