Last Friday, on the 25th of October, I was going out to dinner in the city with my friends. After finally completing my midterm exams, and then being surrounded by a jubilant crowd in a climate protest, I was feeling empowered.
The crowd’s repeated cries that “change is coming” sounded like a unique and powerful melody, one that bubbles up inside you and fills you with something special and hard to find – hope. I left that protest feeling full of laughter and jubilation, with a sense of quiet confidence that things aren’t so bad after all.
It took all but two seconds for the bouncer of Paragon Hotel to crush that feeling of empowerment into dust. It took him two seconds to make me feel small. It took him two seconds to ignore my ID, point to my hijab, and say “take it off.” And it took me longer to realise what had just happened.
Being told to take my hijab off was shocking. It was surreal. It took a moment for me to even process that someone had just discriminated against me for a religious garment that I am fully entitled to wear. And despite the fact that I didn’t see it coming at all – is it really that surprising?
By now, you’re likely to have heard of me. I’ve seen my own face plastered on social media, in articles, in discussions and tweets and memes from all over the world and I've even heard my name on the radio.
It’s sad, really – no one wants to be known for something as awful as this. I'd rather be interviewed because I did something incredible and worth discussing, not because I was a victim to a gross and hurtful act.
But now that I have your attention, I want to use this moment to create a discussion – because the truth is, Islamophobia in Australia actually isn’t that shocking.
If you go up to any hijab-wearing Muslim you know, chances are they can tell you about an instance where they have been racially abused.
I spent my New Years this year in Canberra (don’t ask me why). I was going to the bathroom with a younger friend, and advised her not to use the portaloo she was initially heading toward because I knew it was dirty and the tap didn’t work.