"Because yesterday I felt safe. And today, I don't."

Jamila Rizvi





Scared is the wrong word.

I don’t feel scared, more like anxious. It’s that sensation of having eaten a chip and not quite having chewed enough, so it’s grated my throat on the way down.

I go about my day. I forget that uncomfortable feeling for a few minutes or even hours at a time. But then I walk past a television screen, glance at my Facebook feed or hear the murmur of “is this really happening here?” conversations and suddenly – the anxiety returns.

This morning we woke to the news that police raids across Sydney and Brisbane had foiled terrorist plots, one which included executing a random member of the Australian public. A terror cell allegedly planned to abduct an innocent person in Sydney’s Martin Place, drape them in an Islamic State flag and behead them on camera.

Sydney’s Martin Place. Where the alleged beheading was going to take place (via Sydney Council)

Recent widely publicised cases involving the beheading of journalists and aid workers abroad, show that Islamic State appears to favour this highly theatrical brutality. They favour it because this barbaric style of murder captures the attention of those living in democratised nations; in a way that the use of modern weapons does not.


A beheading reminds us of a time that we naively believed the world moved beyond. It is an ancient and uncivilised action, seemingly unguided by any modern understanding of fairness, law, order or justice. Add to this, the randomness of a planned attack on an unsuspecting member of the Australian public going about their ordinary business… and no wonder so many of us are feeling unsettled and nervous.

Tony Abbott talking to reporters about the raids this morning. (Screenshot via ABC News)

Because this is a time when the contrasting images of our imaginations, and our real life experiences, do not compute.

Martin Place with its busy office workers grabbing a sandwich, shoppers pointing excitedly to window displays and buskers putting on a show for a few gold coins and some applause… and the sound of a sword severing a human head?

It’s bizarre. Wrong. Confusing. It’s more like a myth, a historic retelling, or a B-grade film with an unrealistic and unbelievable plot line.

Our brains don’t accept it as possible.

Because yesterday we felt safe. And today, we don’t.

“This is Australia” I scream inside my head. “Australia. The country, which I’ve called home my entire life and where things are always going to be okay”.

Terrorism and plans to murder innocent people is something that happens far away, not 1km from where I’m sitting right now.


I said earlier that the lump in my throat wasn’t because I wasn’t scared, but because I was anxious.

I lied.

It’s not anxiety, it’s fury.

Cory Bernardi called to ban the Burqa today.

I’m furious that my friends and family are postponing visits to major landmarks, or reconsidering running marathons they’ve been training for for months, or avoiding football finals they’ve been hanging out to attend.

I’m furious that my colleagues and I have spent our day indulging our deepest fears instead of gossiping about whether Lara Bingle is pregnant and enjoying the gorgeous early sunshine of Spring.

I’m furious that there are people in this world who want to do harm to people I love, spreading indiscriminate fear and hatred.

I’m furious that there are a small number of politicians who, instead of uniting this nation during a time of uncertainty, are taking the opportunity to scaremonger and renew calls to ban the burqa.

I’m furious because I know what this will mean for the Muslim community here in Australia and the deeply painful racial hatred they are likely to bear the brunt of in the coming weeks.

And most of all, I’m furious that I’ve been made to feel afraid in this beautiful country, which I love.

Because yesterday I felt safe. And today I don’t.