Dear Australia, we need to talk…

So I’ve been mulling over this for a few days, wondering if I should or shouldn’t post this. A quick disclaimer, this post isn’t up beat like most of my others – it’s rather the opposite in fact. The event that I’m about to talk about brought about a range of feelings for me – fear, anger, disgust, sadness and disappointment, just to make a few. I don’t want to make this about something that happened to me either, because as I’m sure you’ll understand, I’m certainly not unique in this circumstance.

Something happened on the weekend, something that shouldn’t happen, to anyone, ever, wherever they are, under any circumstances what so ever.

I was at a music festival on Saturday and let’s just say it wasn’t the nicest of days – mud everywhere, wind constantly whipping around and rain continually falling from the dark clouds above. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t a brilliantly fun day – just marred by a few blemishes from Mother Nature! That being said, there was also something else that detracted from all the good stuff. Here’s what happened.
Like I said, it was raining, so in a last ditch attempt to stop my hair getting too wet, I wrapped my heavy scarf around my head and over my hair. There it stayed for a while, without me giving it a second thought. That’s when it happened. I was waiting in the (insanely long) line for the toilet with a friend and I was approached – no, actually, I was rushed at, by a complete stranger – an incredibly inebriated young girl who, all of a sudden began pulling at my scarf. The words that were coming out of her mouth were heinous; “Take that scarf off your head, people will think you’re a Muslim – don’t be a Muslim, Islam is bad” – and on it went. A girl (who I guess was a friend of hers) halfheartedly appologised and tried to pull her away – but she came back. As she aggressively pulled at my scarf, which, in my panic I refused to remove, she yanked at my hair, even pulling some clips out.

Just for context, this is the scarf and how I was wearing it (although I snapped this photo the following day, and yes I only half removed my make-up / face paint)
Just for context, this is the scarf and how I was wearing it (although I snapped this photo the following day, and yes I only half removed my make-up / face paint)

Immediately afterwards I was visibly shaken. Luckily my friend talked me down; “She’s obviously the kind of girl that gets her news from commercial TV and reads the Advertiser” – but that didn’t exactly help. The fact that anyone, regardless of how drunk and beyond their own inhibitions they were, would deem it okay to do that absolutely shocked me – especially a young, ‘normal’ enough seeming ‘lady’ – it was basically disgusting. Additionally, it thoroughly rattled me that this event coincided with ANZAC Day – a day on which we commemorate the sacrifices that were made in the past so that we could now live in a free country, filled with opportunity for all.

For me this really hit hard, you see three years ago I was fortunate enough to be selected to travel to Turkey (a secular nation whose predominant religion is Islam), and attend University with some amazing Turkish students. I spent ANZAC Day 2012 with them, and was able to learn about the experience of war from their perspective – not that different from ours, actually. I guess when I say ‘I have a lot of Muslim friends’ – it’s not just a token comment, it’s genuine. The guys and girls who I met in Turkey were some of the best people I’ve ever had the oppourtunity to work, and yes, party with – as I’m sure many uninformed Aussies may be surprised to learn, young Muslims aren’t that different to us. My friends and I danced the nights away in bars and clubs and my friends wouldn’t have been out of place at the music festival on Saturday – bar the attitudes of other attendees, that is. I pains me, in fact, that I just used the term ‘us’ to describe my group of people in order to differentiate us from the ‘other’ – because if I’ve learned anything, at the heart of the matter, we have a lot more in common with one another, than we have differences.

I don’t want this to be about ‘something that happened to me’ – because as a white Aussie, whose reason for having a scarf wrapped around my head has nothing to do with my religious belief, this didn’t have as much affect on me as it could have on others. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult, how horrible this would have been for any of my friends, who choose to remain covered due to religious or cultural beliefs – and just as much, I have many friends whose religious or cultural beliefs you wouldn’t be aware of unless they told you – as such, not knowing someones background does not excuse bigoted or insensitive behavior.
As educated Australians it is important to recognise that this isn’t who we are. That although one drunk girls idiotic behavior isn’t the reflection of our entire nation, it is the symptom of many under lying problems.

This should never have happened. I’m almost glad that it happen to me – like I said, better it happen to me than anyone in a more vulnerable position, however it just makes me deeply sad that any one would have such narrow minded thoughts in the first place. I’m not writing this because I want to be a voice for anyone else and I’m more than happy to be corrected however I do feel that when people act in a racist or bigoted manner, it is vital that we bring attention to it, talk about it and work together to try and stop it ever happening again.

With some of my amazing friends on the day.
With some of my amazing friends on the day.

4 thoughts on “Dear Australia, we need to talk…

  1. Shaz

    Thank you for writing about this Alicia, it is vital that we bring attention to such things. I know you don’t want to make this about you but it sounds like it was a rather harrowing experience and good on you for having the guts to talk about it. Unfortunately those who NEED to read this probably won’t, but who knows you may just make some dumb-ass think before they speak/act next time. Shaz

    • AliciaNorton

      Thanks 🙂 I do wish the girl who did it could read this and could have the chance to talk to anyone who has ever experienced real descrimination…but I guess changing societies attitudes is a very very long process!

  2. Sean Kemp

    I liked what your friend said about the commercial news and the advertiser, even though it didn’t help. Which brings me to the last paragraph where you say it makes you sad that anyone could have such narrow views. In my option it is because of what your friend said that she does.. I hope that makes sense

    • AliciaNorton

      Yeah it does! It makes it difficult to change peoples opinions as well though! Ahhh it seems like a never ending cycle of fools telling foolish things to other fools!

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