car 1

Have a look at that picture. Do you know what that is? It’s a car, that says ‘FUCKN MUSLIM’ on it. The roof has been jumped on. That car was vandalised in the suburb I was born and raised in, where I spent most of my life. Now, what would drive someone to do something so disgusting?

Last Thursday, Australia conducted it’s largest anti-terrorism raids in history. 800 police officers were involved and 15 people were detained. Two of those have been charged.

One was accused of conspiring to randomly snatch a person from the streets of Sydney so that they could behead them and post a video of the gruesome act to social media.

I’m not going to get into whether or not these raids were politically motivated or the rest of that white noise which, in actual fact, has no relevance to the impact that these raids have on the Islamic community.

It has been intense few days, and I’ve needed some time to collect myself before writing this post.

On Thursday morning, I woke up at about 5am and before I had even flicked through the media, friends had liked posts from the Australian Federal Police, about the raids. Barely anything had happened at this point, so I went for my walk and went to work. Throughout the day, more and more details became clear. I tried not to think about it too much. You see, I live in Canberra, Australia’s capital. Since moving here, I have been so at peace. I haven’t had to deal with any racism or discrimination. In fact, sometimes I forget that I wear a hijab because it has absolutely no influence on my day to day interactions and the way in which people talk to me.

When I came home, my social media feeds were flooded with stories from Muslim girls who had been harassed in the streets of Sydney. Those who were followed or yelled at or intimidated or shoved. I’ve talked about this phenomena before – we innocent Muslim women brace ourselves for this, every time Muslims feature in the media. I started receiving messages from people I barely know, asking me if I was okay because their Muslim friend had been hassled in the streets. I had never seen such a widespread affect. I mean, a few isolated incidents, sure. But almost everyone? Never. Check out Islamaphobia Register Australia.

What makes it different this time is that this is a threat on Australian soil. These people weren’t threatening to attack buildings or institutions. No; they wanted to target random people out in the streets. Nothing could be more terrifying. To make it worse, no longer are the references in the media to terrorism – oh no. Now, it’s ‘the Islamic State.’ There is no longer an implied reference to Islam, it’s direct. We are the direct subjects, despite the fact that we’ve clearly declared that ISIS is not representative of Islam. We even held a bloody barbecue to show our ‘Aussie Pride’ and denounce ISIS.

By 8.30 on Thursday night, I checked out and went to sleep. Just didn’t want to deal.

Friday morning came around, bringing reality with it. I got up, ready to go for my walk and just couldn’t. I wasn’t sure what the reaction in Canberra would be like. I didn’t want to be out there at the crack of dawn with no way to defend myself from a crazy, misguided person. I rolled back into bed and felt the weight of the world crashing down on me.

My concerns haven’t precipitated from thin air. Last week, one of the leaders of the Australian Defence League (ADL) threatened another Cronulla-style riot in Sydney, saying “Another Cronulla is coming, and I can’t wait until it does, because this time, we’re going to show you who’s boss”. The ADL are morons though, so it’s usually easy to ignore them. But all I could think about yesterday morning was how high the tensions would be in Sydney. How possible it was that these riots would actually happen.

We, the Muslims of Australia are under pressure (No, not the ‘moderate’ Muslims. There is no such thing. You’re either Muslim, or not. ISIS is not Islam, and I refuse to allow the name of my religion to be used by these thugs.).

The worst thing to think about is that these people who have been charged are Australian. All I can keep thinking about is how it’s even possible that anyone can turn to such insane measures. I’ve talked about the depression that is rampant amongst young Muslims. I still believe that this is a major player – you have a group of disenfranchised, ostracised youths who do not belong to their ethnic communities and do not feel accepted by wider society. I feel helpless. I don’t even know where to start to prevent this from happening, to prevent people from falling into the deepest, darkest holes. It’s terrifying, and I feel sorry for the parents of these men. If I’m feeling this broken, I can’t imagine how they’re feeling now.

On the other hand, we have racist bigots that don’t realise how they are exactly the same people as the ‘terrorists.’ Just as violent. Just as stupid. Just as uneducated. Just as much of a waste of oxygen. Just as much of a threat to the Australian way of life. How is it that anyone can think it’s reasonable to react to violence perpetrated in the name of Islam by fighting innocent, Muslim women? How are you ‘freeing me from my oppression’ when you’re full of shit and taking pictures of me to rip me to shreds on social media? These guys, are the terrorist of Australia, and I denounce them in the same way I denounce ISIS. I fear them as much as I fear ISIS. They are just as much a threat to my personal safety and security as ISIS – if not moreso. They are in my backyard, almost literally.

Lakemba protest

Protesters in Lakemba.

Then there are the rest of us, who are normal, loving people. Muslims and non-Muslim. Confused and worried. Unsure of what’s happening. Unsure of what this means. Mindful of the fact that this may not just blow over. I mean, I’m hoping beyond all hope that this whole situation ends without incident. But so much has been happening.

The Islamic community is holding its breath. We shouldn’t have to be texting each other to see if we’re okay. We shouldn’t have to change the way we live our lives. Muslim women are scared to leave their houses, and rightly so. As I write this post, I’m watching my Facebook news feed. The stories are horrendous. The graffiti on people’s homes and cars is vile. The comments on these posts are even more disgusting. I’m amazed of what these scumbags are capable of saying, capable of threatening.

The problem is that I have no other home. I have no where else in the world to go. I have known no where else. I am sick to death of feeling like Australia can never truly be home. It is my only one.

The one positive thing that has come from this is that the Islamic community is rallying together, moreso than usual. We are finding comfort and support amongst each other, and that is a good thing for everyone. It prevents us from feeling so isolated and ensures that there is a network of others to fall back on. Although I didn’t agree with the timing of the disjointed protests which happened in Lakemba, I am quietly satisfied that it did not spiral into a violent breakdown and that people were able to get together and voice their concerns – as misguided as they were. It’s a good start. I’m even prouder of the fact that yesterday, most mosques were visited by police or members of government for the Islamic Friday prayers. Messages of peace, calm and hope were delivered across a number of mosques. People were able to express their concerns and fear, for themselves, the Islamic community and Australia at large. People were also able to ask why the raids happened and listened first-hand to a message that said that Islam is not the target. Now, if only the media would get the message.

I’ve spent some time out and about in Canberra today, and I can safely say it’s business as usual. I was slightly self-conscious as I walked around, but people are their usual, lovely selves. I am comforted by the fact that my little Canberra family will help ease my fears.

However, I am terrified about what is coming for Sydney. I pray that it’s nothing. Australia’s terror alert level was recently raised to likely. I fear that the Islamic community will have to shoulder this burden.

To the Muslims who are currently feeling uneasy – reach out to the community. You are not alone. We are all feeling the same unease. We are all looking for solutions. We are all worried. Do not work through this on your own – you are not alone. Be vigilant, but remember that this is your home too, and no one can take that away from you.

 

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