May 24th 2019
May we stand together — Insha’Allah
I’m recently returned from the Cairns Mosque, Queensland, Australia where I attended an open day. Not only was there food on offer (always lovely for nibbles) but more importantly there was a show of faith, faith in the community. For a congregation of approximately 100 Moslems in Cairns, in excess of 500 community members showed up to show support for them and offer condolences and thoughts for those recently struck down in Christchurch, New Zealand.*
As I arrived, I noticed some non-Moslem women wearing headscarves, but when I had asked the Islamic Society by Messenger the day before, whether this was a requirement, they said all I had to wear was something I felt comfortable in. I decided against wearing my pyjamas! The mosque was filled with plastic green chairs which looked comfortable on the blue carpet. It was a plain hall painted in a primary school blue, with a high ceiling, pointed arched window, fans and louvred windows at the top of the building, next to huge air-conditioners. That was it. No ornate Islamic art — in one corner was the name of Allah painted in gold on a simple black backing, no more than A1 in size which was dwarfed by the extent of the room. There was a simple podium and a sound system that worked intermittently. There was a sense of simplicity, not austerity, and I found myself to be surrounded by well-meaning Caucasians.
Local, State and Federal politicians spoke of support and the need for a united community as did the Police Superintendent for the region. The Catholic Church sent a representative to share love and I even noticed a Scientologist (proclaiming as such on a bright yellow shirt) at the side, all of them wanting to tell the Islamic community that they don’t need to be scared and that we are there to protect them.
The Imam of the mosque spoke briefly. Difficult to determine his age because of his beard, he was dressed in white with a long, black outer garment like a long, light coat. The P.A. System restored, his voiced reached each of us as gently as if he was next to us. He spoke of being scared. It’s not often that we get to hear and see the raw fear of others. It’s one thing to be scared of being caught out, scared of failing exams, scared of the dark, but to hear and see a man’s self-confessed fear for his life and safety, I was moved to tears to share this intensely private space in his heart. I wanted to shout out – DON’T BE SCARED. But who am I to stand against all the racists and Islamophobes? Who am I to stop the monsters in the cupboard?
The Imam moved swiftly on to the topic of Islam and in five minutes, he tried to condense the religion for those who had no knowledge of it. He set out a question and answer session for the visiting community and took questions on the role of women in Islam, the repression of women in Islamic countries and sharia law. His answers were all eloquent and honest and filled with love and peace. He decried those Moslems who had taken the law into their own hands and were using the Qu’uran to their own end. He spoke against repression and beheadings, and by the end of the session, was as everyone else in the room — emotionally connected, spiritually together.
After the presentations and the food, I had the opportunity to talk to one of the women who were hosting the event. She said her experience is that each time there is a killing, a beheading, any news of violence against or perpetrated by Moslems, she stays indoors for a week. ‘Hunker down’ was how she described it and is too afraid to leave her home, even in Cairns, a peaceful, at times sleepy, tourist town in the Far North of Queensland. It struck me that here is a group of people in my own community who are too terrified to walk out their front doors for fear for their lives. They fear being spat upon, jostled, pushed around, bullied, and now killed. How can this have happened in such a quiet community as mine? Sure, we have homelessness and a drug underworld — which town doesn’t — but to be so scared that you feel you have to hide in your own home is an unacceptable state of being to me.
I am embarrassed that white supremacy has raised its head once again. I am embarrassed that they think they speak for me because of the colour of my skin. I am angry that they take the law into their own hands and perpetrate atrocities in my name. I will not be quiet and I will defend my brothers and sisters regardless of religion, creed, or colour. We are one race, the human race and in the same way my mother taught me to fight against apartheid as I grew up in South Africa — so I will now teach those around me to stand against the senseless evisceration of those who desperately want to live in peace. May we stand together –Insha’Allah (God Willing).
*With reference to and in respect of the 50 murdered Moslems in Christchurch, I am not mentioning the gunman’s name nor any content of his thesis, nor will I direct you to any online coverage of the massacre. These things need no fame and in our shame as human beings we must ostracise those who would make a name for themselves through violence.