Just before midnight on 31 December 2013, as little knots formed in my stomach, I hit ‘Publish’ on my very first post here at Unveiled Thought. It was called Why Do You Wear Hijab.
It probably wasn’t the best piece of writing I had ever done, but I was so ready to share my opinions with you. I was sick of feeling like I had no say and that the media was creating this false description of who I was as a Muslim woman. I was Amne – the loud, inappropriate and far too stubborn girl who was confused about whether she was Lebanese or Australian or Muslim or a woman or a public servant or a scientist or a youth or a chocoholic first. No one in the media was going to be able to capture that!
In the last two years, almost 80,000 of you, from all around the world, have read my 77 posts over 120,000 times. The most popular day for you guys to be here is a Monday at 10am (so glad that I can soothe your Mondayitis!). Almost 200 of you follow the page, almost 500 of you have liked Unveiled Thought on Facebook and a bunch more have found me on Twitter and Instagram. You have supported me enough to allow me to be published on Mamamia, the Daily Mail (I know!), Coming of Faith and in a FREAKING UNIVERSITY TEXTBOOK.
Seeing those numbers just blows my mind and I am so grateful to all of you for sharing this journey with me and helping me start some very interesting conversations.
I have been overwhelmed by the messages you send me through my Contact Me form and the Facebook page. You have shared stories about your faith, your fears, your hopes, your concerns, your support, your friends, your family, your heartache and your successes. Sometimes you write me pages and pages of words, and sometimes it’s a sentence.
You have told me stories about the secret lives you are forced to live because fears of persecution about your religion or gender identify or beliefs about the world. You have asked for my opinion on what you wear, how you feel and how you react to things. You have asked me to contribute to your papers and research papers.
In sharing these stories, you have reminded me how similar we all are, right across the globe. We are mere mortals, trying to do the best we can as we sit on this little ball of rock and gas shooting through the universe around a little sun.
More than anything, I think I have learned the most from people who send me hate-filled, vile rants that seek to shake my belief in who I am. I must say, I have read some of the most heinous things over the last two years. Some of them are people who just swear at me, others are threats of violence towards me, my family and Muslims in general. I swore to myself that I would reply to all of these people with kindness and patience. In doing so, I have learned to expand my thinking and play devil’s advocate in the truest sense. In doing so, I continue to weave through my own mini journey of self-discovery.
What I have found is that the angry, racist bigots can be divided into two camps – those who have serious grievances and want to talk, and those who are looking for a scapegoat and could not care any less if you gave them every ounce of proof available to answer their bullshit. The first group has shown itself to be one that is open to conversation and have always come around. Sometimes it takes months of correspondence (10 months for one particularly upset person), but in that time, we are both forced to confront realities that we had not considered previously. This group has taught me to remain patient and true to myself. The second group is one that I’ve learned not to waste my time with – my time is better spent helping those young Muslims who are impacted by that sort of bigotry who need someone to make them feel like they belong.
You have all shown me that you can find hope when you search for it. Watching this little group grow has given me faith in the darkest of times. Although the voices of bigotry and hatred seem to grow around us, in our own little way, we are fighting back with light in a way that they could never understand. Our willingness to support one another and find solace in our similarities is far more powerful than any division they try to sow.
Thank you for the last two years. I look forward to 2016 and bringing you more content! As always, feel free to get in touch and let me know what you want to hear about. After all – I do this all for you.
For now, I will leave you with this poem that was recently shared with me. I think it nicely captures my attitude toward life and what I’m trying to achieve here. Enjoy!
Desiderata – Words for Life
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
– Max Ehrmann
Love to you and yours xx