Dilemma of being a ‘Westie’

•July 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yes, this is another article about ‘Western Sydney’.

Not your usual whiney – “I’m disadvantaged because I’m from the West” – type of article, though.

Quite the contrary.

Western Sydney is often portrayed as the scene where many a drop-out school kid is hanging out at the local train station. Where police have trouble controlling the crime rate. Where all dole scammers live.

Having grown up in Fairfield, I have walked past those noisy groups of young people at the train station, witnessed the impact of local crime and met the dole scammers.

However, this picture of ‘Western Sydney’ is what I describe as a semi-reality.

Why a semi-reality? Because behind the rough exterior lies some polished gems of young people from a diversity of backgrounds who are making their dreams come true.

However, the success stories get little attention.

And the belittling mentality towards ‘Western Sydney’ seems to be seeping into the minds of many young people living in the region. More often than not, I hear friends and peers from the West saying, ‘Oh I’m from the West, they won’t accept me’ or, ‘I’m a Westie, I won’t get that job’.

Indeed, many believe that they are at a disadvantage simply because of their postcode.

But what these young people need to do is to draw on the many success stories that are coming out of ‘Western Sydney’. For its part, the community needs to start publicising these stories because the area is not the deep dark hole that it’s made out to be.

While I understand where some of the frustration is coming from, being a ‘Westie’ (a label I wear proudly), should not be used an excuse not to get ahead in life.

Rather, it should be thought of as a motivator. I know it’s easier said than done, but if you don’t like your situation in life, try to do something about it.

Stop blaming ‘Western Sydney’ because it’s not where you come from that counts; it’s where you are going.

Advertisements

Breaking down the wall of silence

•July 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Why are some witnesses to the spate of shootings across Sydney reluctant to speak out?

Do they fear becoming a target? Are they worried about exposing their own criminal activities? Or Do they simply not want to get caught up in the conflict?

NSW Police investigating the shootings have complained about a ‘wall of silence’ among witnesses and called on the community to help the authorities so they can get the guns off the streets.

A recent police analysis found that handguns were used in 88 per cent of gun crimes committed in 2012, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald. The figure grew to 94 per cent for shootings that took place in a public location. 

gun.pngInitially, the official line from police about the shootings was that they were targeted at specific people in the community involved in criminal activity. Recently, however, there has been a shift, with police saying that in some cases young men were involved in shootings over minor matters, including turf, politics and family conflict. 

Meanwhile, many law-abiding members of the community who live in relatively quiet suburban streets are asking whether it is only a matter of time before an innocent bystander becomes a victim. A witness to one of the shootings has said: ‘Every time the kids look at the news and hear another shooting, they look at me and say, ‘Are they going to come back to us’?” 

Hate-ism

•July 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

When ABC television journalist Jeremy Fernandez became the victim of a racial attack on a Sydney bus last month, his response resonated with me. 

Jeremy.png

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday morning, Fernandez tweeted that he was called a “black c**t” and told to “go back to my country” in front of his two-year-old daughter.  Another tweet read: “Coppef [sic] 15 mins of racial abuse. Bus driver said ‘your fault for not moving.”

Fernandez had refused to move from his seat, as the bus driver had suggested, and said, “Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken”. 

Speaking later on ABC radio, the shaken journalist said the attack was about ‘hate’. “This wasn’t about race, it was about hate …  it happens every day in Australia, this is not a rare incident.”

He is right. As a young Muslim woman who dons the hijab, the Islamic headcover, Fernandez’s words reminded me of an incident I encountered on a Sydney train last year.

After a long day at work I boarded a typically over-crowded train and squeezed into a corner, gripping onto one of the handles and stood sardine-like. A few spots into the journey, the train approached Lidcombe station and quite a few people got off the train. This was a relief as I knew it would mean a place to sit would likely open up for me. I spotted an empty seat and like a bee to honey, I quickly made my way to towards it. 

But before I had the chance to sit on the chair, I felt a hand press against my back and I found myself being pushed to the side of the train.

Confused, I turned around and saw an older man, dressed in a fluoro tradie’s shirt and clutching an  eski, take the seat I had been eyeing. He snarled: “Sorry love, I don’t f****ing stand for anyone.”

Shocked at his physical contact with me and upset by his rudeness, I responded, “That’s fine, you can have the seat because you are older, but your attitude is disgusting.”  He looked up and appeared to be caught off guard by my reaction.

Little did I know that this was just the start of one of the most racist experiences I have had as a Muslim women in Sydney.

The man smirked and said, “You’re lucky you have a pretty face love because that’s all you have going for you.”

“Look at you,” he spat, as his hateful gaze inspected me from head to toe. “You bought your camels here; I pay my taxes; I have a right to sit down on the train.”

I froze as his words played over and again in my head. Then I began to shake, angry that this man was trying to embarrass me in front of a carriage full of people.

“Not this time,” I thought to myself.

Then I said: “Everyone pays their taxes and everyone has paid for a ticket and we all have a right to sit down but clearly not everyone can. By the way, I’m an Australian so don’t you dare give me that nonsense.”

By now, I could feel the gaze of all the other commuters, but the man carried on: “Yeah, yeah, yeah … I am Aussie, not you! This is my country. I am a plumber, I fix the system, the system can’t fix me. I pay taxes so the government can pay lazy men that will end up screwing you.”

At this point, I was beyond infuriated and especially hurt by the man’s clear sexual reference. That I was clearly becoming emotional was no deterrent.

“This is my country, born and bred and I work hard and deserve to be here,” he continued, waving his hands around.

I tried to stay calm and told myself he wasn’t worth getting upset about. But I felt like a fire was burning inside me and I couldn’t hold back.

“No, this country is not ‘yours’, this country belongs to Indigenous people,” I fired back in a shaky voice.

“This is their land. Your ancestors came here by boat. I came here as a refugee. My parents worked hard to earn their living and offer us a better life and brighter future and they have succeeded and I will not allow you to underestimate or belittle their efforts and the efforts of millions of other Australians in this country. Look around you, look at the diversity in this carriage alone. Wake up to reality; this is not white Australia. We all deserve to be here.”

Applause erupted in the carriage. I looked around and saw eyes filled with excitement for me. Someone grabbed my hand and gently rubbed it. I don’t know who it was, but I felt it and it was good.

A sense of overwhelming support consumed me. The man full of taunts looked at me and shook his head.

The train then pulled up at the next stop, Auburn, and he got off.

“Well done, love. You showed him what you’re made of,” said a woman who was rubbing my shoulders to comfort me.

It was only when I got off at my stop that I started to fully comprehend what had just happened. I headed towards my car and found it hard to stop myself from shaking.

Racist insults are not new to me, since my hijab makes me easily identifiable as a Muslim. However, it had been a year since I had been at the end of a racist verbal attack and I was starting to think that maybe things were changing.

While I felt some pride in having taken on this man to try to punch holes in his stereotypes, it was still a big personal disappointment that after living in Australia for almost 17 years, I have to assure people that I am an Australian.

And sadly, the attack on Jeremy Fernandez did not come as a surprise to me.

Racism cannot simply be addressed through legislation. Education that emphasises the many benefits of cultural diversity can help tackle some of the toxic views.

What do you think of the racist attack on Jeremy Fernandez? Were you surprised to read about it?

Share your views in the comments section. 

ED HUSIC’S BIG MOMENT OVERSHADOWED BY ONLINE ABUSE

•July 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s a first in Australian politics.

Sydney Labor MP, Ed Husic, has been promoted in new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s parliamentary line-up. Earlier this week, before the Governor General, Quentin Bryce, Mr Husic became the first politician to be sworn into a position on the Quran.

 Mr Husic is now a parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.

Online comments flooded Twitter sphere, with some claiming Mr Husic is trying to “introduce Shariah in Australia”, “undermining the Australian constitution” and “affecting Australian culture.”  

The president of the Anti-Discrimination Board and chairman of the NSW Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said it was “a sad day for any society” when someone is abused because of their religion.

Mr Kerkyasharian went on to say, Mr Husic could act as a valuable bridge between the Muslim community and would put Australia at an advantage in the international community.

Despite the significant step for Mr Husic, and multiculturalism in Australia, it is not the first time an Australian politician has taken the oath on a religious text other than the Bible. Politicians of the Jewish faith have taken the oath under the Torah. One of those politicians was Kooyong member Josh Frydenberg, who today came in support of Mr Husic where he tweeted, “Criticism of @edhusicMP for being sworn-in on the Koran is a disgrace – we live in a democracy where we must respect freedom of religion.”

For his part, Mr Husic has downplayed the drama saying the public should not be too fussed about “harsh words out of dark corners’’.

Dear Anxiety

•May 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Below is a piece that moved me. At their request I have posted it and they remain anonymous.

….

“Dear Anxiety,

 The time has come.

 A time I have been putting off for a while, a time I can no longer prolong.

You and I have been acquaintances for years now. You entered my life uninvited. You embedded yourself in my mind and raped me of my logical and emotional thinking process.

Not once did you consider me in all your selfishness. From the stresses of primary school homework to the pressures of life, you manifested yourself in me as if there was no barrier, as if I was born with you… as if you owned me.

For years I let you proliferate my life, my sense of worth and my heart. You made it your personal mission to battle with me in every aspect of my life from education, work, friendships and even relationships.

You weaved your toxic reactions all over my body, from the speedy heart rate, sweaty palms and illogical and intrusive thoughts.

You crippled me mentally despite my physical capability.

As the years went on, your psychological abuse towards me heightened. You began to disrupt not only my thoughts, but my time.

With each thought you introduced behavioral rituals. You forced me to switch on the light three times before bed every night. You made me organize my whole room in immaculate order.

You created a paranoid yet collected monster who on the outside appeared normal, but deep below was spiraling out of control in a frenzy of absolute order.

You became my addictive enemy.

Without you I was nervous, impatient, and scared like a child without its security blanket.

You became my very own Stockholm Syndrome. You were my captor and I was your prisoner that couldn’t bare a day without you.

As my life advanced so did you. Although at times I managed to loosen your tight grip, you were quick to notice and forcefully reinstated your power and control over me.

You made sure I knew who was boss- it was you.

… or so I thought.

You see Anxiety despite you been in my life for such a long time you have overlooked one thing, one very important thing.

Me.

One night while I was praying you emerged. You made me repeat my prayer six times because you told me that if I didn’t God would be displeased with me.

You did this for months and I believed you. After every prayer I broke down begging for God to save and help me from you.

While I was on my hands and knees in the early hours of the morning I realized God had already sent me a savior.

It was me.

Unbeknown to you, you stupidly underestimated God and me.

You see Anxiety, I was beginning to silently fight back in your chaotic and deafening war.

After years of grappling with the thought, I finally did it.

I saw a psychologist. 

The moment I walked through those doors into the white, gleaming room I felt as if I had just taken a knife to your back and stabbed you deep inside.

It was a sensation that consumed me, overwhelmed me and bought me to tears. Happy tears because finally after years of silently suffering under your rule I was screaming from the top of my lungs.

You finally looked up.

With every session, you dealt a blow. You noticed.

In all your anger and rage you intensified your behavior rituals and your intrusive thoughts- a defense mechanism you tried destabilizing me with.

It didn’t work. Not this time.

Anxiety, although you remain to linger in my life- you are no longer the superpower you once had me believing.

You are no longer my captor and I am no longer your needy prisoner. Finally I have broken free from the tyranny of your mental incarceration.

Finally, my mind, thoughts and emotions are returning to its rightful owner.

 Me.

So Anxiety, although you attempt to revive yourself on a day-to-day basis- I fight back stronger and more capable then I have ever been.

But I want to thank you.

Yes, thank you.

Thank you for breaking me down to my core and mentally beating me up while crippled and defenseless.  

Thank you for the days of stress, fear and mental instability.

Why am I thanking you? Because without your cruel treatment of my mind- it would not be what it is today…

… a free mind.

Too often people think of you as an irrational and illogical weakness. But you my friend have unknowingly produced strengths within me.

You are not a sign that I am weak nor are you an indicator that I have lost control.

You are evidence to the struggles I have overcome, the battles I lost and won and the war I will win.

I am no longer in your confinement, no longer suffocating under your regime.

I am me- a forceful power you can no longer penetrate even with your impressive artillery of irrational thoughts and behavioral urges.

Anxiety, you are not the killer of my dreams, you are the motivator.

Sincerely , a liberated Mind, Body and Spirit. “

Shoes Now Save Later

•February 8, 2013 • 1 Comment

What I am about to admit has been a life-long struggle for me. The internal arguments with myself over this issue has occupied my mind and although those who are close to me may be aware of it, it’s only now that I have decided to take a leap of faith and let it go…

I am a self-confessed shopaholic.

There I said it!

I like many other women around the world find pure bliss in purchasing products including but not limited to: dresses, shoes, make-up, shoes, scarves, nail polish, oh and did I mention shoes?

The thought of inserting that credit card into the machine as I delicately type the pin in and the sound of the ‘approved’ beep going off, is enough to send me into a frenzy of giggles and excitement.

The sound of bags rustling as I sneak them into the house while trying to avoid my father’s shopping walk of shame gaze sends adrenaline rippling through me.

The thrill of trying on my new dress and showcasing it to my sisters as they stare in adoration while they squeal… (probably at the thought of me allowing them to eventually borrow it- foolish girls)elevates me to a shopping high.

But as my wardrobe grows, my bank balance rapidly diminishes. Recently I was proudly talking to a close friend of mine about my immaculate wardrobe arrangement, the colour coordination, the perfectly folded cardigans, and the neatly stacked shoes… while doing this we were also ironically enjoying your average teenage whinge about how difficult it is to save.

The discussion led to what our weekly spending was. Mine was estimated to be around $150-$200. After discussing the amount of money we waste on things like food, he proposed a challenge that I live on $50 a week for six weeks.

After a couple of minutes of talking myself up and my impeccable money-saving skills to my friend- who clearly at this stage underestimated my ability to save, I willingly accepted.

Week one started off with purchasing my weekly train ticket at the heart-wrenching price of $20.  That was almost half of my budget already gone, I thought to myself. Nevertheless I carried on.

As I walked along the pavement heading to work the aroma of coffee lingered pass my nose. It’s alluring smell immediately diverted my body to the nearby Gloria Jean’s cafe, ignoring my brain’s desperate warning signs that I am left with only $30 for the rest of the week.  I walked out clutching at my cup of morning glory with a receipt that read $3.50 and a smile on my face.

The following couple of days I continued my coffee trend.  ‘I am packing food from home so I can spoil myself with this little bit of necessity to help me get by’ I reassured myself. By the time Thursday came around and after three coffees and an iced coffee date with a friend, I was left on $3.50.

After informing my friend of the remaining budget he chuckled, “HA! Goodluck for the rest of the week!” he snickered.

Despite his inability to conceal his excitement at the thought that he was on the verge of been proven right- that I am unable to live on $50 a week, I simply said, ‘You’ll see,” as I pictured his face in shock when Sunday would come around and I would have successfully finished the first week of the challenge.

Much to my friend’s surprise and perhaps annoyance- although he won’t admit it, I made it to Sunday without spending the remaining $3.50. After a few minutes of performing my dorky celebratory dance I prepared for the coming week.  I felt as if I was at war with limited means, rationing my $50 amongst the bare essentials.

Week two started off great… or so I thought it was until I went for a stroll on my work break. As a safety precaution I left my purse in the office and walked out the building. As I made my way to Pitt St Mall the shopaholic within me awakened from its deep slumber.

All of a sudden, the white, lace long-sleeved top with a high neck cut that was draped on the mannequin’s petite upper body became a ‘bare essential’. The gleaming $150, nude Tony Biancos with spikes on the heels were a match made in heaven for my feet.

‘Don’t do it Widyan’ the voice in my head warned itself.  ‘You cannot lose this challenge’ and it was right. I painstakingly dragged myself and walked away as my hand prints on the windows faded right before the pair of heels.

Week 2 ended on a high… well a high personal achievement wise, but my budget finished off on 50 cents. Yes I know pathetic right? But hey I remained within the given budget and no one was going to take my sense of satisfaction away from me.

“A congratulations is in order,” I proudly demanded from my friend. “I’ll congratulate you when you win the challenge. If you finish on $10 next week then and only then will I consider you to be a threat.” I thought about it for a few seconds, ‘that would mean cutting down the coffee, think of the coffee’ the voice in my head screamed. “Deal!” I said ignoring it.

Monday came around and I was confident that I could finish on $10, perhaps I was a little foolish in believing so because come Monday night at a community event  things were about to get very interesting.

After having an early lunch, then heading to the event which I was a volunteer for, I was well and truly in starvation mode. By the end of the event I tried to ignore the stomach rumbles until I got home, but the feeling of my stomach eating itself and the peer pressure of a group dinner became too much to bare.

‘There are plenty of inexpensive options on the menu Widyan. You have $30, you got this’ I encouraged as I read through the menu. I settled for the mushroom chicken, chips and salad with a glass of peach ice tea, bringing my total order to the amount of $25. I smiled to myself knowing I didn’t go over my budget… only to realise I failed my friend’s $10 challenge… the smile quickly disappeared.

‘Just enjoy the chicken’ I told myself as I took a mouth full picturing my friend’s face after I would reveal to him my expenditure.

Later that night as I was straddling the line of consciousness and deep sleep my phone buzzed. I reached for it and opened the most heart wrenching text message… it was from my service provider. ‘You have less than $5 remaining of your credit’ I stared at the text message re-reading the sentence hoping it would disappear…it didn’t.

“You have got to be joking?” I asked in sheer desperation as I looked at the inanimate object in my hand, as if it was going to answer my question. I deleted the message and called my friend since I had 200 free minutes.

“So um I think I may have to buy credit tomorrow since I have less than $5 left and my budget has only $5 remaining on it,” I said in a soft voice in the hope that he wouldn’t hear me or perhaps unconsciously I hoped he would feel sorry for me make an exception this one time… he didn’t.

Laughter erupted from the phone’s speaker, “I knew it!” he screamed as he laughed even harder at what had now become a failed challenge. “You win so bask in the glory while you can,” I said half heartedly. “Yes I do win. Good try though,” he said in an attempt at pretending to comfort me from the disappointment.

“I would have won the challenge had it not been for me having to recharge you know,” I said as he was finally recovering from his laughing fit… and I truly believe I would have.

People asked me why I was doing the challenge, questions like ‘Are you going through financial difficulties?  And ‘Do you need money?’ were asked and re asked over the course of the two weeks. Truth is no, I was not going through any financial difficulties, as a matter of fact I am earning now more than at any other time in my life and that was the problem.

I am privileged enough to have a good paying job and money is at my disposal… too much of it. I would purchase things even when I did not need to. I would spoil myself to the point when it was no longer ‘spoiling’ but became more of a routine… an expensive routine. After all it was my money and I did work hard for it, I told myself every time I was at the check-out.

But somewhere down the line, somewhere amongst the new dresses, the stacked shoes and the draws full of make up, I had lost the meaning of the value of a dollar.

That is why I took on this challenge, not only to improve my money saving skills but to appreciate all that I had already possessed. It was about relearning and reclaiming how to be content and what it means to be content with what I have.

Having money is dangerous because it blurs the line between needs and wants. A new dress becomes a need rather than a want or a new shade of lipstick all of a sudden is boxed in the ‘bare essentials’ category.

While I will never be able to break free entirely from the consumer chains courtesy of my passion and love affair with fashion, the challenge taught me how to be resourceful and wise with my money.

I now still pack lunch from home, although I buy a chocolate bar here and there. I’m saving at least $100 a week on food alone, I set aside more than half of my fortnightly payment on savings and finally my bank account is growing at a rate that’s catching up with the growth rate of my wardrobe… well almost.

Image

Widyan Al Ubudy

“A Universal God”

•February 1, 2013 • 2 Comments

 

When I was asked to write an article about religion, I initially underwent a serious case of anxious feelings like breaking out into a sweat, rapid heartbeat and stress. I thought ‘Me write an article about religion… Oh Gosh!’ But here is why I was so fearful. Firstly, I am not the most religious person on the face of the earth, and secondly I feared coming across as authoritative in one way or another … something which I certainly do not claim to be. 

 

After my panic attack I thought about it a little more rationally. ‘The approach is where the key is’ I calmly reassured myself. So I thought about my beloved religion … Islam. I thought about how my religion forms the foundation of my life, how dear to my heart I hold it and try my best to follow it on a daily basis.  But what struck me the most was just how much of an influence my religion played in my decision making process and my relationship with my non-Muslim friends.  

 

This realisation came recently after an online flyer for World Hijab Day was brought to my attention. The initiative was for February 1st, 2013, where veiled Muslim women invite both Muslim (non-veiled) and non-Muslim women to participate in a worldwide event by embracing the hijab (veil) for a day.  The aim was to raise awareness, create a better understanding and produce a more peaceful world. I gave the concept some thought and after a couple of days decided to put a call out on my Facebook to my friends encouraging them to support the initiative. To my surprise three of my non-Muslim friends emailed me almost instantaneously informing me of their interest and eagerness to take the challenge on. One of these friends was a young woman by the name of Jess who I had met in the UK while I was on student exchange. She emailed me saying “Not only do I want to do World Hijab Day; I want to do it for a month and blog about it”.

 

I was overcome with sheer excitement and a feeling of whole-hearted appreciation towards my friends but more importantly towards God, that He blessed me with loved ones who had such open hearts and minds. I offered my support to three of the women and told them what was required of them – that they wear the hijab and dress modestly on the day and document their experience in some form, they all agreed.  The following day I awoke to a first blog entry by Jess who had just finished the first day of wearing the hijab. I excitedly clicked the link and began reading through her experience.  I read about the all too familiar suspicious gazes she encountered and the awkward quietness in public spaces – something I warned Jess about prior to her adorning the hijab. When I reached the end of her blog it read, “…a woman said she thought that people like me who wore the hijab were “brave” because of the statement we were making and even made the point that “it’s not something like a cross that you can hide in your shirt, it’s something you wear on your head”, which was a really pertinent point. Muslim women cannot hide the fact that they are Muslim – it’s out there for the world to see, especially if they wear the hijab – and nor should they!”  A shiver ran through my body and a smiled appeared on my face because of what Jess had done and what the woman had said to her. Here was a non-Muslim woman who not only was voluntarily changing her life for a month to experience a taste of what women like myself undergo on a daily basis, but who had just enabled an honest discussion regarding the hijab between two non-Muslims.

 

But not everybody shared mine and Jess’s excitement, nor could everybody see the benefit of this initiative. Jess received mixed feedback from readers who were now following her journey. Some congratulated and encouraged her to persist with it, while others condemned her and her efforts along with the purpose of World Hijab Day. Some claimed it was reinforcing stereotypes about what it means to be a Muslim woman or that it takes more than a day to know what it’s like, while others argued that the day is not representative of all Muslim women as many do not adorn the hijab.

 

All of these points were valid in their own right, because let’s face it one day of wearing the hijab in reality is nowhere near long enough to gain a sound idea of what it might be like for a Muslim woman. However, I felt that many of the critics had completely missed the point of the initiative and its objective. It’s simple – the idea is to raise awareness and provide mutual understanding or at the bare minimum tolerance of our differences. A sense of disappointment and frustration consumed me when I realized that some of my Muslim veiled friends held similar views towards World Hijab Day. Needless to say, the critics couldn’t stop Jess nor discourage me from encouraging her.

 

The second day I checked up on Jess’s progress, and to my shock and awe she told me that she had borrowed a Quran from the library because she wanted to know more about not only why women adorned the hijab but about the religion that it was based on.  After telling her the cleansing practices of how to handle the Quran when reading it, I couldn’t help but shed a tear. My friend who had previously had limited knowledge about Islam was now reading the Quran voluntarily. I basked in the overwhelming feeling of closeness to God and a strengthened love for my dear friend Jess.  I didn’t feel as if my friend was reverting to Islam, nor was that the aim of why I encouraged my friends to participate and it was certainly not the purpose of World Hijab Day. It was my friend’s mere curiosity and willingness to learn that instigated her to further seek knowledge about Islam – a curiosity that God had bestowed upon her.

 

Five days into her hijab journey Jess released her fifth blog about her experiences. She revealed that although she will not be converting to Islam (nor did I expect her to) she has taken away valuable Islamic fundamentals- dressing modestly, believing in the oneness of God, that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), Jesus, Moses etc were all Prophets of Islam, and the consumption of halal meat and no alcohol.  Jess wrote, “Islam has taught me that I am not the person I thought I was. I am a creation of God and I am a good person.” Her words echoed in my ears and found that my eyes had glazed over, yet again. Jess’s words remain with me as a reminder of the beauty my Lord has shown Jess. Jess’s conviction, persistence and honesty taught me that my religion is so pure and universal that even a non-Muslim can find benefit in its abundance of knowledge, wisdom and way of life.

 

I later realized that Jess’s journey with the hijab not only taught her valuable lessons about religion but also taught me more about mine. Islam is not just about following a set of obligatory rules; Islam is a spiritual journey. It is about the cleansing of the soul, heart and mind. Islam is about understanding, compassion and love. It’s about sharing the relationship between yourself and God with others to help, inspire and motivate them to achieve what they doubted in themselves.  God granted me the privilege of being his servant and the ability to share and encourage people like Jess. This experience illustrated that regardless of where one comes from, where one lives or even how one lives, the message of God, the message of Allah (Subhan Wa Talla) is universal and applicable to each and every individual that occupies this temporary world.

 

So the critics can continue to harp on and write their arguments, they can condemn and contest the initiative behind their computer screen, but if World Hijab Day means people rediscovering themselves and God and if it means reinstating the powerful teachings of my Lord then that is enough for me because as Jess rightfully put it, “God does not care about what other people think of us. He is only interested in how we behave. Whilst other people’s opinions are important, they do not define us and have no real impact on how we live our lives.” Jess’s journey and actions reminded me of a saying a friend once told me, that Islam and the spirituality of Islam is something that should animate our acts in our everyday lives with both Muslims and non-Muslims.

 

Widyan Al Ubudy 

As published on VIBEWIRE 

BBC story on Jess: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21283301 Image