Category Archives: Politics

The 1st of Apprehension

Sydney, Australia, is a pretty safe place to live. Australia, in general, is laid back. Crime exists, but it’s not rampant. There’s no gun culture. It has it’s racist edge, no doubt, but that’s not typically translated into violence. It’s hard to incur aggression when your speech cheerily suffixes everyday chatter in “o”. We get petrol from the servo, visit relo’s in the arvo, donate to the salvos, agree with righteeoe, and wave off with a cheerio.  

I dunno, perhaps this is only my perception and there are others who could tell a completely different story.

In decent areas, educated citizens see through and ignore media fear mongering, preferring to get on with life rather than live with irrational fear. In less than ideal burbs, even if you’re not liked, you probably still feel safe enough. In most places, most people can walk down most streets most of the time without a whisper of hinderance. Well, this has been my experience.

From my late teens I regularly used the Sydney train system. (Cityrail, as it was known then). Irk was limited to the occasional drunkard (late night or early weekend mornings) or a bunch of rowdy teens hurling insults at commuters, on a silly high with their first taste of obviously premature independence. This for me was pre-hijab years, for the world pre 9-11.   

In the mid eighties I was doing a course near Central Station that ended at 11pm, and breezily caught the half-full train the hours journey home alone on Monday nights. After a few weeks I noticed a weirdo had begun following me, so after alighting at my home stop I scurried forward to walk beside an older looking guy in a long dark duffle coat, giving the appearance I knew him, which immediately deterred the follower. (Nowadays I would not be keen to take public transport alone late a night). 

That would pretty much sum up my 3 decades of sometimes regular sometimes sporadic train life in Sydney, Australia.  
Ahh… but the times, they are a’changin….
Now we have viral videos featuring racist rants against quietly shocked veiled women and immigrant men, and despite the subsequent much appreciated “I’ll ride with you” type support on social media, my feeds still catch glimpses of the ever simmering hate. “Bloody Muzzies!” write my fellow compatriots underneath misleading memes. (Yes, they shorten the word Muslim here too). “Islamic terrorists” we are called. “Go back to where you came from” a frequent phrase they say. Those are just the niceties.  

Whilst I appreciate how a sunburnt suburban existence with a bottle-o haphazardly on every corner and The Daily Telegraph a persons only reading material could so easily limit one’s world view, the increasing nastiness, along with despicable world events and the resultant overloaded media coverage, combined with right wing government rhetoric, had me feeling a slight unease. So when I had to take the train to a business meeting in the city shortly after the recent Paris attacks, I felt my first real wave of apprehension.

Waiting for the train I stood near a pole on the centre of the platform, near the top of the stairs. I waited till the train had stopped on the platform before moving toward it. I wondered how many fellow hijabis felt the same, and for how long? In a gesture of friendliness I smiled softly at strangers whose eyes caught mine, something I’d do anyway, especially children and and old people.

I was not feeling greatly fearful in anyway, just somewhat cautious. Of course, no one seemed to give this travelling hijabi a second glance and I travelled to and fro in the safety I always have. But what was significant to me was that my thought processes had changed, my feelings of safety were questioned, apprehension had finally reached me.

Maybe it was a little late, compared to others. Maybe other minorities live like this daily? Maybe I live in a bubble? Maybe it was was as totally unfounded as it ultimately turned out to be. I would like to think the latter, but I know the guise of the laid back Aussie has never been all we like to think it to be. Indigenous Australia can testify to that.

You would assume that in a land abundant in sunshine, sea, space, sand, surf, bush, blue skies, BBQs, beaches and beauty, racism and wouldn’t stand a chance in the long run. The place is just to chill, and, after all, there is plenty to go around as our national anthem clearly states – “For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share”. You would think. And hope. And pray.   

So as we enter a new solar calendar year, may we find common sense prevailing as we negotiate these new and troubled times. May those living in fear find safety and security, and those living in ignorance find the light.

Cheerio, and happy 2016.

  

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Is hijab oppressive?

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Every so often we have Burqa/Hijab/Veil comments quoted in the newspaper or one of those today tonight a current affair shows. They do the social media rounds, attracting comments amongst Muslims, supporters and detractors alike. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinions and feelings, especially since these things are often emotional and not entirely voluntary, at least at the outset.

So I offer this piece in peace, for the non Muslim anti Burqa reader 🙂

Enjoy!

“The Islamic Veil”

I understand how you could conceive an attire your eyes are not accustomed to seeing day-in day-out as confronting, and how, in the free and open society we live in your initial impression would be to conclude this dress code oppressive. But as a very happy, proud and content Muslim woman, I would like to invite you to a little deeper reflection.

To set the framework of the mindset of the wearer of a burqa, or hijab, or veil, you should first understand a little bit about Islam. Islam is the belief in One God, One Almighty unique creator to whom we shall all return. This God, Allah (literally, “The God”) is the same God worshipped by all the Prophets sent to mankind, including, but not limited to, Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, peace be upon them. All great men in history to whom no other man in our modern times could ever hope to match.

Muslims believe this God has set down a handful of commands for those amongst mankind who wish to worship Him. Being from God, these commands are superior than anything we could put together for ourselves. They serve to establish just, peaceful, tolerant, respectful, safe, nurturing and happy societies and to deter crime and oppression.

I should note at this point that adhering to the this religion is a personal choice, as stated by the religion itself – “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Quran 2:256)

So for the half a billion or so Muslim women worldwide, wearing hijab or burqa or whatever name you choose to apply to a loose fitting garment & head covering that conceals ones shape and beauty from the view of the general public, is simply the fulfilment of one of those few commands, obedience to the One who created the universe and all that it contains. Obviously I don’t know your religious beliefs, if any. I invite you to read an English translation of the Holy Quran one day and maybe find out a little more about Islam.

To the wearer of a piece of flimsy fabric draped over her head, this is a blessing from God, a great freedom. Us Muslim women are free to go about out business everyday; without being ogled, judged, compared or wolf whistled at (well… hey with the exception of a bit of unfortunate racism that may on occasion be encountered).

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Contrast this with modern western woman, and the constant pressure she has to look good, the discomfort many feel of wearing the equivalent of underwear in front of complete strangers (swimwear) which society forces upon us from a young age, our innate modesty now deemed prude, the need for her to “dress sexy” and compete with other women in the genuine human search for a mate, to be judged on appearance more than ability, to the Muslim woman – this is the real oppression.

We only need to see the great increase in ‘diseases’ that afflict some – anorexia and bulimia – that destroy lives and even cause death – diseases that were much less heard of when society held to more conservative dress codes. We also see and hear of many teenagers and young women nowadays suffering low self esteem, comparing themselves to the airbrushed women fronting the endless glossies and images of barely dressed females at every turn. And consider the case of those who have become so dissatisfied with their physique that they are willing to part with great sums of money to have themselves surgically “enhanced”. The beauty of women is a potent force and when set rampant upon society has not yet proved to bring great peace and harmony to our hearts and minds.

You may also wish to place your thoughts of the Burqa against the backdrop of history and of other women whom you will be more accustomed to seeing veiled. Let’s consider – was Mary the mother of Jesus oppressed? Do you consider Mother Theresa was oppressed? Are all Nuns oppressed too? Is a society filled with miniskirts and cleavage really a great freedom we should all be proud of?

At a time when rape is a daily occurrence, the hijab says ‘don’t even think about it’.
At a time when every one knows of someone who has cheated on their spouse, the hijab says ‘not with me’.
At a time when 12 year olds are starving themselves, the hijab says ‘my weight is none of your business’
At a time when women compete ardently with each other to shock and expose, the hijab says “I won’t be compared”
At time when many girls long to “be famous/a model”, the hijab says ‘l use my brain, not my body’.
At a time where society is reaching new lows of morality, the hijab says “I still believe in God”.

Beautiful, precious things in this world are concealed. Diamonds lay hidden deep within the earth, pearls in guarded shells at the bottom of the sea, we keep our valuables in safes, life giving fruits are protected in their skins.

All women in all societies should be respected, treasured and protected (regardless of their faith). The garments ordained by the One who created us serves this purpose so beautifully in an way that no bikini ever could.

So I invite you to contemplate the dress of the Muslim women, I hope you can see just a little of its light.

Peace
🙂

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