Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stories Stranger than fiction

Ever hear a story so outlandish you don't believe it could be true? Something that often touches your heart and breaks your wall of indifference? Well I heard a story from my sister today which is just that, I was so touched by it I decided to blog about it so as not to forget it, and to give credit where it's due.

For many practicing muslim women in the west life is quite challenging. That simple piece of cloth over their heads has defined them and caused them trouble even more than other women who may choose to ONLY wear a small piece of cloth. There is a widely held belief that all non muslims hate muslim women and their hijabs. Especially since there are so many stories supporting this. Such stories build a divide and a misconception towards non muslims as being racist, xenophobic and lacking in humanity.

This story took part at Auckland University in New Zealand, about two or three years ago.

As part of a marketing campaign for a website relating to Arabs in New Zealand, a number of Arabs were congregating at the quad during the clubs and societies day. The girl who went to the podium to speak about this website also happened to wear a hijab, we'll call her Fatima. A man from the crowd started yelling at her to go back where she came from etc... She didn't pay much attention to him. And faced the crowd and was about to speak...

When all of a sudden this same man lunges at Fatima and starts to grab at her hijab and tries to take it off, and eventually succeeds at doing so.

Such actions, when seen AND when imaged, slow down time so that you are aware of every single emotion and thought in your head. To be assaulted in this way, in the middle of a crowded area, to have some strange demented man's hands over you. While others sit there watching, apathetic, smoking and looking on.

I mention this because the narrator spoke about this explicitly. The fact that during this horrible moment, she looked towards the only people she looked at for help. The Arabs. Her own kind looked on and did nothing. Writing about this fills me with pain at the state of those people.

This moment is still going on. Panic, struggle, embarrassment, anger. What happens ? Who rises to the occasion ? Well, I'm getting goose bumps even thinking about what happens next.

The organizers from the beer and wine ALL jump to Fatima's help, they pull the man from Fatima and pin him to the ground (and according to some narrations, bash him).

While AT THE SAME TIME a group of Islander boys boys form a protective circle around Fatima so she can recompose herself and put her hijab back on.

If you're an Arab or a Muslim. I want you to think about this incident. This is a REAL incident that occurred three or so years ago. I've no doubt other incidents also took place in which non Muslims come to the aid of Muslims without need for shared ideology or faith. This is what happens in the modern secular democratic west. Shared values of humanity and doing good, and it doesn't mean that we Muslims undervalue or dilute our Islamic beliefs. Where in Islam does it say that we can't do good or help others or be friendly to our neighbors?

It makes no sense for either peoples to isolate themselves from each other. Isolation has always caused distrust, fear, xenophobia and hate.

This issue is important to me and should be to others as well. Please comment and let me know your thoughts, and if you've also encountered similar stories, tell me about them.

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