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Don’t give ISIS what they want… fear and division

The recent spate of ISIS inspired terrorist attacks in Nice, Orlando, Istanbul, Würzburg, Medina and Baghdad has sent shock waves of fear around the world. Terrorists use fear as a weapon. They do not just threaten life and limb, but our sense of security and social cohesion. We need to show resolve and resilience in the face of this threat. Our resilience in the face of terrorism can be measured by the way we respond to fear and hate as a united, inclusive, democratic society.

We should be sending a clear and united message to ISIS: we are not afraid; we stand united. Sadly, some of our public figures in Australia have failed this test of resilience and given into the fear. Sonia Kruger is not the only one.

Fear affects different people in different ways. As a young, physically identifiable Muslim woman, I’ve had my fair share of physical and verbal abuse. From having my hijab ripped off at school, to being abused on a train and referred to as ‘a Muslim bitch who bought my camels here.’

But never have I have ever felt so much pressure and anxiety than I do today as an Australian Muslim.

To me, it feels as if all four walls are closing in tighter and tighter on me and my community and at each corner of this dark, secluded room there are voices yelling at us, that we’re not welcome here and that we are a danger to all of society.

You see Sonia, it isn’t just you who is scared, we are all scared. Some of us are afraid of an imminent terrorist attack, and rightfully so. Others are scared because they’re freedom to practice their faith in peace is now threatened in an atmosphere of fear and Islamophobia.

But we, not only as individuals, but as an Australian community must not let this fear cripple us. We must not let terrorist propaganda infiltrate our souls so much that it hardens our hearts and prevents us from thinking rationally and feeling compassionately.

Yes, we all have a right to exercise our freedom of expression (including our right to profess our religion), but those who spit vitriol and hate speech must understand that their words are weapons too, and they have casualties. My community is one of those casualties.

Hateful media commentary, divisive political rhetoric, and ISIS propaganda all have the same end result… division. Division undermines social cohesion and national security.

Being resilient means learning from past mistakes and experiences, moving on, and creating a better future.

"You see Sonia (Kruger), it isn’t just you who is scared, we are all scared. Some of us are afraid of an imminent terrorist attack, and rightfully so. Others are scared because they’re freedom to practice their faith in peace is now threatened in an atmosphere of fear and Islamophobia."

Waleed Aly is right in demanding a ‘productive’ response to the Kruger affair. However, Aly is wrong to say that anger at Islamophobic vitriol isn’t warranted, or that forgiveness should be granted without acknowledging the harm that has been done.

As a young Australian Muslim, I can tell you we are angry, we are hurting, and we also want to forgive. But forgiveness is a process, and before one can forgive there must first be a recognition of wrongdoing. 

I don’t expect Kruger to apologise for her views. I don’t expect ignorant critics to stop insulting my faith and questioning my loyalty to Australia. None of that will affect my faith, or my identity as a proud Australian.

Australian Muslims are a resilient lot. We have endured years of insult and abuse, media misrepresentation, and all kinds of social pressures. I am proud of the resolve continually exhibited by Muslim community leaders, and by all young Australian Muslims who are fighting hard against extremism while at the same fending off an assault of ignorance, fear and hate directed towards their own community and faith.

We are all moved by horrific images of terror. We all want to feel safe and secure. Sonia Kruger, you have my word that you will be safe around me, because like you, I love my country and its people.

The Point

The recent spate of ISIS inspired terrorist attacks in Nice, Orlando, Istanbul, Würzburg, Medina and Baghdad has sent shock waves of fear around the world.

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