easter friday and i was expecting a nice, relaxing day. but it didn't quite work out that way. even though we don't observe the christian tradition of easter (muslims don't believe in the whole crucifiction/resurrection thing), friday is our day of congregation so has spiritual significance. normally i don't get to the mosque on fridays because i'm working, but on public holidays i make an effort to attend.
so we're walking into the grounds, when some guy driving past puts his head out of the window and shouts at the top of his lungs "the airport is that way". once is not enough for this moron, he keeps yelling it aggressively several times: "go on, the airport is that way". not sure that this was directed at us in particular or just generally at all the people who were walking towards the mosque at that time. regardless, thanx for trying to ruin a moment of peace and spirituality, dude. hope it made you feel really strong and proud.
the incident reminded me of another one related by a muslim woman at a gathering i attended last week. this woman told of how she had just come out of a supermarket the weekend before, to have some idiot ask her aggressively where she was from. given her style of dress and her white skin, i suppose he was expecting that she would give the name of a middle eastern country, but she gave him the name of the western country where she was born (not nz). he then proceeded to tell her that we didn't any f***king ****ans in this country & she should go back home.
the woman related this incident to us because she was disappointed in her own response. she yelled back at him, and part of her response was that when all the f***king nz'ers got out of her country, she'd be quite prepared to go back home. off she went to her car, and as she was pulling out, said moron was waiting with a bottle, which he threatened to throw at her car. she blew him a kiss, and he never actually threw the bottle.
but later, when she thought about the incident, she realised two things. first was that this is not how we've been taught to deal with abuse. in terms to adhering to our own standards of behaviour, we are asked to be patient in the face of abuse, not to respond in kind but instead to respond with kindness. she felt that she hadn't lived up to that standard, and i could totally relate to that, because it's exactly the guilt i'm feeling every time i react in anger.
but the second concern was that she had deliberately put herself in danger by talking back. this guy could have damaged her car, he could have followed her home to hurt her or perpetrated some other kind of nastiness. we've just seen an elderly gentleman beaten to death in act of road rage, and the message is clear. if you piss the wrong person off, you risk your life.
and the people who mete out this kind of stuff (ie the abuse at the supermarket, the yelling outside the mosque) tend to be quite the wrong kind of person. they tend to be male, young or middle aged and confident in their relative strength. another one of the women at this particular gathering told us how no-one had ever yelled at her if she was with her husband. it only happened when she was alone or with her children.
i've heard of "reclaiming the night" marches, but some of us still need to reclaim the days. we need to reclaim the shopping malls and the parks, and the roads we drive on. there are times when nowhere feels safe, no matter how public nor how many people are around. mr jasmatbhai patel was beaten to death in daylight hours, in full public view. there were plenty of people around.
i try to keep reminding myself that there is so much to be grateful for, and that i'm lucky to be living in a country of relative peace. there's no place in the world that is perfectly safe, after all. but in my heart i know that life shouldn't have to be like this. it's just not right. more than that, i know that there is a lot of anger, a whole lot of anger, in ethnic minority communities about race-based violence. as the recession deepens and "migrants"* are blamed for taking nz jobs, there is a good chance that violence against ethnic minorities will increase. and there is an increasingly likely chance that those minorities will return violence for violence.
cronulla is really not that far away from here. not physically, not metaphorically.
*by which of course, people usually mean migrants of colour. and they mean people of colour, born and/or bred in nz, but who are never seen as belonging here and are forever described as foreigners