Before we move on to a new week, I wanted to share another of the personal stories that has stayed with me and really guided me in exploring the issue of Islamophobia. This is the story of someone I’ve grown up with since birth and who is still my closest friend to this day. When she told me her story, at first I felt outrage then I felt sadness and finally, a calm acceptance. Then I asked myself, why do I feel acceptance? This isn’t NORMAL. It isn’t FINE and it definitely isn’t trivial. Zayneb wears a hijab as a symbol of her Muslim faith and here’s her story.
“I was taking the bus to uni last Monday, same as I always do. Headphones in and Opal card ready. I took my seat near the back doors of the bus so I could get out quickly when the UWS stop came. I usually just look out of the window while I wait for the bus to start but that day I just glanced around at the other passengers for a minute when I made eye contact with one lady. She was in her 40s I would say and she was Caucasian with brown hair. I really don’t know what I did to set her off, our eyes only met accidentally for a second but she got up and started making her way towards me. At first I just looked away, thinking she was just moving seats or something but from the corner of my eye I saw that she was standing next to my seat and waiting for me to look at her. When I turned to her she started speaking and her face was going all red. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to know what she was saying so I was a bit hesitant to take my earphones out. After about a minute I actually did take my earphones out to be blasted with,
“- and you really should go back to where you came from! You can’t wear that thing around here! This is Australia!”
I’d never really experienced such a direct confrontation before then so I was sort of shell-shocked, I guess? I mean of course you hear stories about people who’ve been in this sort of situation but when it’s actually happening to you, you just don’t know whether to ignore the person or give in to your feelings and tear up. I looked around the rest of the bus and there were 3 or 4 other people there plus the driver but everyone was just ignoring it or trying to look busy. I think that was when I felt the worst. After she’d run out of steam she went and sat back down in her seat but the whole way she was just glaring at me while I tried not to make eye contact or show her that she’d hurt me. Everyone I told later was completely sympathetic but there was nothing they could do for me after the fact and it was pretty disappointing.”
Like I said in my last blog post, stories like this are very common and when it happens to someone close to you, you feel completely helpless that you couldn’t do anything for them in that situation. Even more so, you’re angry and saddened by the people who were there and could have done something but never did. Instead, they left a 21 year old girl to fend for herself simply for being who she is. That’s why I implore you, dear reader, that you realise how much of a difference one word can make. Had anyone even said ‘stop’, the situation could have been so different. Nobody likes a racist and it takes just one person to speak up before others will back them. Never be the bystander who doesn’t say anything. Take a look at this or this to know how you can make a difference in the lives of other helpless victims.