The day after the Christchurch mosque attack, I asked my brother if he’d agree with me if I say, the global Muslim community has a possibility of facing a Muslim holocaust in the near future.
While I was asking him this, a part of me wanted him to laugh at this far-fetched imagination, wanted him to just shrug it off as an unfounded fear. To my dismay, he rather surprised me by nodding in silence. After a little pause, he said anything might happen.
But this is not 1945 anymore, people are very much aware of issues such as xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, white supremacy and so on. So, never, it will not happen insha’Allah.
I tried hard to put my mind at ease and go to sleep. But then when I woke up the next morning my fears seem to be gathering some evidence.
A Facebook friend shared a piece of news from 2017, published in the Independent in the UK. On their national Independence Day, 60,000 Polish nationalists marched chanting for an ‘Islamic holocaust’.
Now I realized why we Muslims, in general, weren’t really shocked to hear about Christchurch massacre, as Waleed Aly precisely put in his TV commentary. Because we already knew it’s coming, and it’s coming big.
Now in the hindsight, I tried to understand why did I on the first place even asked that question!
It was probably out of a desperate wish for self-consolation. The terrorist attack in Christchurch mosques straightaway reminded me of a night from 11 years ago. I wouldn’t want any Muslim or any other human being to go through such experience.
That time I was new to this country. Coming back home after a long hours shift, I was in the Museum station to change trains. Standing there just like many other commuters, I was waiting on the platform.
This man came out of nowhere, started his fierce rant, pointing his finger straight towards me. With my very little comprehension ability of Aussie accent at that time, I could only understand part of it ‘terrorist’, ‘****** Muslims’, ‘***** immigrants’!
He screamed and screamed and screamed. This violently verbal abuse kept going at least for a minute, it felt like forever. No one, NOT A SINGLE commuter tried to stop him.
I have never been a bystander myself in my life, especially not when any abuse is targeted towards me. However, that night and on those extraordinary moments, I realised that language is a weapon too.
With my broken English, I couldn’t even think of a word to tell him to stop, or to face him, or to call the police, or to do something, anything! He was shouting, and the train arrived with an opportunity for me to escape that situation. I remember I hurried inside the train just to hide my tears from everyone else there.
I still vividly remember how I was looking for an empty carriage. I wanted to distance myself from all those commuters who had just witnessed me being so disgustingly abused, and yet did nothing or said nothing.
Some months later, this time, my language was a bit better. In my mind, I thought I wouldn’t let anyone just go without saying anything if I’m attacked again.
Yet, I again couldn’t say a single word when these two heavy-built ‘white’ men boarded into the carriage I was in. It was around 10 pm. I was again coming back home from a long day of study and work.
One of them suddenly asked me ‘hey, you a Muslim?’
I didn’t need to reply, because my headscarf was there to let everyone know the answer. He also didn’t wait for my reply. Laughing with his mate, he said, ‘why don’t you wipe my *** with your scarf?’
No matter how confident I was in my language skill this time, I realized suddenly that I am unable to say a word in reply. They were two heavy-built men and I was alone in that carriage. I just had to pretend not to listen to them as I hurriedly ran back to another carriage.
This time I was looking for a carriage full of people, or at least some of them. I was constantly looking back to check if they were following me.
Later when I was walking alone from the station to my house, I was sobbing in silence again.
This time I came to realize, no matter how skilled my English is to reply back, and no matter if I wear a hijab or not, no matter what, it will be one after another. We will be picked up and harassed and abused for nothing and everything.
I remember a few months later on another day, a lady in the Woolies checkout where I was working screamed at me saying ‘don’t touch my stuff with your ***** brown fingers!’ She wanted me to wear gloves while scanning the items she was buying!
People say you have to focus on the bright sides, positive sides of society. Yes, why not?
We should take the wisdom out of the wounds. Yes, I get it. But how? How exactly I’ll focus on the positive sides when we, the immigrants, and especially the Muslims are constantly in our everyday life facing xenophobia and Islamophobia one after another?
And why is it that we are supposed to look at the bright sides of the society when the society itself is continuously placing us in the victim’s shoes?
Last week I was with my sister-in-law. She was silent and looked a bit shaken and silent. I thought she was still trying to manage the psychological pain and sorrow resulting from the Christchurch massacre. But when asked, she said she was about to board a train on that very morning when an old white man suddenly started screaming to her. Saying all the f and t words.
I knew the answer already, still, I asked her ‘what did you do’?
She said, ‘nothing. I felt so scared. I just ran inside the carriage’.
Muslims have been dehumanized by the media and politicians for more than a decade, the way world politics have made us, the Muslims, their scapegoat, the slaughter of this scapegoat is nothing short of a possibility in future.
In fact, it already started happening in many countries. Rohingyas are an example. The Muslim concentration camps in Uighur, China is nothing less than another Auschwitz concentration camp. But does the world care?
We may not be in 1945 now, yet the mass ignorance of xenophobia and Islamophobia will make it possible to be staged. The number changes but human psychology doesn’t.
The day before yesterday, we went to our local mosque to pray. While my two kids were busy playing and running around, I suddenly found myself thinking about the number of exits in that prayer hall! I was trying to figure out if there is a less familiar exit just in case I have to run for the safety of my kids!
Just realising that how deeply shaken I’m by the Christchurch mosque attack, I started crying. My elder daughter stopped playing with her younger sister and ran towards me asking, mum what happened? Why are you crying?!
A minute later I found myself having this conversation with my 7 years old and 3 years old.
Girls, if we are in a situation where a bad man is killing everyone, do you remember what to do?
My 3 years old yet doesn’t understand the question. My 7 years old started laughing, she thought I was crying because I thought she forgot the answer!
‘Mum, I do remember what to do! I will cover my sis and both of us will pretend to be dead!’
Her innocent laughter broke my heart, I literally felt an ace in my heart. I hugged both of them tight and said:
Remember, even if something happens to mum and dad, still you can’t move, can’t make any noise. Okay? Just lay still. And you (pointing to my older one) must take care of your little sister in any situation, okay baba? Promise?’
Laughter went off my daughter’s eyes and her face became saddened, and her eyes were teary now. She said, ‘I promise ma, but nothing is gonna happen to you or dad, right? Say right?’
I didn’t know what to say.
How could I say nothing will happen when so many things are happening! Instead of replying to her, I hold them closer.
I know, it’s not only me, there are so many other mothers like me struggling to have similar kind of conversations with their kids, scared and afraid.
What kind of world is this where we have brought in our children? God, what kind of world we are living in where a mother has to have this kind of conversation with her little children?