After Christchurch, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked if Australia “has an Islamophobia problem”.
“I don’t know if Australians understand Islam very well, and that can often lead to fear of things you don’t understand,” he said.
While opportunists and grifters used the atrocity to pursue their own tiresome agendas, most ordinary people rejected such nonsense, choosing common humanity and reflection instead.
For me, the theme of the week was empathy in its truest sense.
In that spirit, I obtained permission to share an email sent by 6PR listener Hajarr Safi, a 29-year-old mother of three, a Muslim woman born here at King Edward hospital to parents who fled the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s.
It is a powerful insight into what it is like for one young Australian woman living in Perth.
“Australia is home for me and always will be, no matter what. My heart belongs in this land and I intend to live out my life here,” she wrote.
“Although I feel that my place is here, there are some that feel it is not. My beliefs are similar to the other Abrahamic beliefs, but the difference is that I choose to wear my beliefs. Regardless of the weather, you will see my arms, legs and head covered. I share the same values as any good person in this country; honesty, consideration, tolerance and respect. Good over bad. Love over hate.
“Unfortunately over the last decade people who claim to share my religion have shattered it. Their victims are not only the ones they’ve murdered in their paths, but those left behind and inevitably the Muslim community worldwide.
“Every single time there is an attack of any sort, I hide away. Every time Muslims are in the spotlight, in the news or on social media or on the radio, I hide away. Whether it’s conscious or not, I try to make myself seem as invisible as I can.”
She describes pulling up to intersections and wishing for a green light so she would not have to stop for a red. When she makes an appointment she speaks with an Aussie accent but is anxious when she attends in person, thinking “I’m not what they expected when they spoke to me on the phone”.
“When I make a minor driving error, like misjudge distance slightly or overtake too closely, I get a split second urge to rip my head scarf off. It’s only a split second but it’s there,” she wrote.
At work, a long-time customer told her he thought she was very intelligent but was offended by her headscarf. It left her “heartbroken for weeks”.
But when you grow up with Pauline Hanson’s voice in your head, constant negativity in the media, and targeted attacks on innocent people of your faith, it shapes the very core of you as a person.
A stranger once muttered “f…ers” as he passed her at the shops; others have glared and stared. “This is not even ‘that bad’, there are many, many other Muslims with far worse personal experiences,” she wrote.
“I am not ashamed of who I am or what I believe in. Not at all. I am a proud Australian Muslim and I am a good person. But when you grow up with Pauline Hanson’s voice in your head, constant negativity in the media, and targeted attacks on innocent people of your faith, it shapes the very core of you as a person.”
The days after Christchurch have been “very hard” and she has imagined her own family, her kids, under attack at prayer.
She believes politicians and the media have a lot to answer for. She believes she is one of a generation of Muslim kids who have grown up enveloped in “subliminal Islamophobia” which has taken root in her psyche.
Nursing her four-month-old, Hajarr said she wrote her note amid tears; for her children, for the Christchurch victims, and for the survivors who try to rebuild shattered lives.
“I am so happy that we’re calling this guy a terrorist and I am so grateful for Jacinda Ardern. What a leader. What a woman,” Hajarr wrote.
“Many, many people have to live with the consequences of terror every day. Although I am not a direct victim of terror, I am affected by it. Every single day.”