Stories from young members of the Muslim Women’s Association of South Australia
Sometimes other people make a difference. When they do, we remember.
Friends as backup
At school, my friends back me up. They say to me, ‘If anyone says something or hurts you, I’m here. I can get someone or call the Police’. I say ‘Don’t worry, I’m Muslim, I’m Arab, no one is going to mess with me!’ (laughter). I live at Henley Beach and there aren’t many other Muslims around. If we are walking on the beach and someone is really staring at me, my non-Muslim friends might say, ‘What are you looking at?’ I’ve got my friends as backup.
It felt so good not to be alone
Things might be getting worse out in public, on the streets. But they’ve got a lot better on social media. After the Lindt café siege, the “# I’ll Ride with you’ campaign was amazing. We didn’t expect it at all. I was expecting to get attacked. I was scared to go out of the house. And then that campaign started. It was amazing. It felt so good not to be alone.
The day after the Lindt café, our next door neighbour came to see us. She brought a box of chocolates. She said ‘please don’t feel you are alone. We are with you’. I really felt this was quite special. Because I had been nervous that day. My family had told me to be careful. After any event like that there are always one or two threatening phone calls. And we did receive a written letter that we had to take to the Police. We make sure we are never alone in the office. That there’s always more than one person. So that day, when our neighbour brought chocolate, her kindness meant a lot.
We want to stand with you: A bystander action project
When we witness discrimination or harassment how can we respond?
To the young women of the Muslim Women’s Association,
Hi. We’re a group of young women – friends and workmates. A few months ago, we heard your story, ‘We try not to take people’s hate into our hearts’ and your words challenged and inspired us. Not only did you make us realise that discrimination is happening on our local streets, buses and trains on a daily basis, but the way you handle these scenarios, with humour and kindness, really moved us.
In fact, your words have moved us to action and to start a small project which aims to provide bystanders with the tools to respond in different situations, whether witnessing racism, sexism or homophobia or other forms of hostility.
This project is happening because of your words. We want you to know that we now carry your stories with us daily. Your efforts not to take people’s hate into your hearts are now imbedded in our hearts. And this is making us take action. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We hope we can stay in touch.
Anni, Charlotte, Kelsi, Molly, Laura and Sophia on behalf of the Bystander Action Project
A note on the artwork:
An unexpected journey
‘In these artworks, I captured my journey. I use continuous lines, black, red and green colours and my fingerprints. Each of the artworks contain a figure with a different coloured fingerprint on the face. These fingerprints represent my identity. The colours have been chosen from the flag of Afghanistan and each represents a different meaning. In the first piece, there is a figure with black coloured fingerprint that represents how we come to a new country and experience difficulties of new language, culture and environment. In the second piece, there is a figure with a red coloured fingerprint which means you are fighting and still lost within the new atmosphere. In the last piece, the colour green has been used to represent that after all those experiences of resettlement, independence is achieved as well as success, hope and a bright future.’
Ziagul Yahya was born in Jaghori Ghazni, Afghanistan and moved to Australia in November 2007.