It was your average Sunday evening.
My sister, her four young children and I had just returned from a trip from the city. We decided that day to take a train to share the humble experience of the 80s style covered train seats and rush of public transport with my nieces and nephew. As we hopped off the train, we chatted excitedly about our day and what we had seen.
Holding hands with my nieces and nephew we passed through the gates and swiped our cards. What looked like an Anglo man, medium build, messy hair stood to our left, blank faced staring in our direction.
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As hijabi women, we have been forced to adapt to strangers’ prolonged unwanted stares when carrying out our daily activities.
We often make a game of it: is this person staring because they find me beautiful? Or am I about to be verbally (or, in some cases, physically) abused? More often it is the latter.
The man took slow steps towards us, holding a strong glare. He stood over us: my sister, my three nieces and my nephew.
“Oi!” he shouted. “You do not belong here!”
He continued to spew our racist abuse, calling us 'ragheads' and 'terrorists'.
Our happy chatter quickly turned to fear and shock. Our first instinct was to protect the children, so we hurried away from the man.
But he'd triggered my identity complex of not feeling I belong to a country that has only ever been my home. Anger filled me and I decided not to stay silent.
"We were born here, you bigot," I screamed back.
I wasn't interested in convincing a racist Islamophobe of my humanity. I simply refused to allow him to think he had the right to threaten and intimidate us.
Of course, a hijabi woman fighting back, refusing to be intimidated, only made him more aggressive.
He ran after us, screaming hateful words. We had to run to the car and quickly lock the doors as he followed us.
Bystanders looked on silently as we struggled to carry and rush the young children to a safer space.