it's taken a bit of work, but we finally have a wonderful piece in the herald on sunday, finally giving a positive narrative about nz muslim women. that is hugely important in itself, but to have it supported by this editorial makes it even more special.
i thought i'd spend a bit of time writing about how this story came about. i know bryce johns from when he was editor of the waikato times. i found him to be incredibly supportive any time i approached him with an op-ed piece or an idea for a story. i'd pretty much lost touch with him since he shifted to HoS, but had occasion to email him about something. his response was prompt as always, and in an email exchange about various bits and pieces, i directed him to this piece i'd written.
he suggested that they could do a feature article, and he'd pass the idea on to the appropriate person. i got contacted by susan pepperell about 10 days ago. we set up an appointment for the friday before last, and i spent about 45 minutes with her. we then met with some of the young women in the mosque on sunday, which took about another hour. in the meantime, susan had also talked to aliya danziesen, who was out of the country at the time, and kate parr at pirongia forest park lodge.
then i got a call on wednesday, asking for a photo shoot involving an action shot. kate had originally organised for a session at the rock-climbing place in hamilton, but what with my work commitments & the young women being busy at university, it took me almost two hours on the phone to set up the shoot out at the lodge on thursday morning. it was another two and half hours driving the young women and the photographer (stephen barker, genuinely nice guy) out to pirongia, having kate set up the abseil and doing the shots. most of this time (friday, wednesday & thursday) had to be made up by me working longer hours at work. radiya had to rearrange a tutorial to be there.
the end result is, needless to say, fantastic. but i just wanted to highlight how much energy it takes to get just one piece in the paper. how much co-operation, and the level of support from the publication itself. i know all stories don't involve so much co-ordination, but they all involve time. a smaller piece in the waikato times last monday (you can find details on my own blog here) also took up a reasonable amount of time. and because contact was initiated by the paper, the focus was on much more negative aspects, though they had the same information that HoS had.
the point is that it's seems so much easier to put out negative stories, to run negative narratives. the burqa-wearing women prevented from using public transport generated a huge level of coverage and comment, dealing with a small minority of the muslim community but impacting on the whole community. it's not so much the stories themselves that were so much the problem, but the commentary it engenders - plenty of it full of hate, misinformation and straight-out bigotry (looking at you there paul holmes).
as a minority community, it's pretty hard to counter that kind of thing. there's so much of it and even one article giving an alternate view takes a significant amount of effort. i have to say that i've been heartened by the people who have been supportive in their own spheres of influence - whether it be facebook, blogs, comments on websites, discussions with friends or family, pieces in more mainstream media.
it means a lot, to me personally and to our community. we're not perfect, there are things that need changing, as is the case with all communities. but as i've always said, it's so much harder to push for those changes when you're feeling under siege in a hostile environment. every little bit of support counts.
so huge big virtual hugs to bryce johns, as well as to susan pepperell and stephen barker. and especially to aliya danziesen and the young muslim women of the waikato, who are amzingly awesome. just a final comment for accuracy: it was aliya who set up the organisation and whose vision & motivation drives the group. i'm very much a support person.