Raised in a Muslim family, I was brought up with the basic, fundamental principles and values that Islam infuses. I was taught to pray, fast, be kind-hearted, generous, not to cheat, lie or speak rudely. I wish that others could see that what I was taught through my faith are the same basic universal values we all share.
I attended a Prep-12 school where I was one out of two students who wore a headscarf. I didn’t feel embarrassed though, but rather with every stare and whisper towards me, I felt more confident. While anti-Islamic events unfolded around me did create much anger and frustration towards me, as a Muslim woman, and my faith; the truth is, my headscarf also brought me confidence, liberation, empowerment and peace.
My approach was and still is to simply share a smile with all, especially those who seem a little uneasy around me. That’s just me. Even when I smile at someone frowning at me, you would be surprised at their reaction! I guess it was my confidence and constant smiling that allowed my peers and others to be comfortable around me. I have always had a diverse range of friends without needing to compromise who I was. For me, nothing else mattered and I am glad I was able to develop this at a young age. I remember something that happened in Year 11 in one of my Chemistry classes. There was a boy named Johnny and he came up to me and said, “you know you’re pretty cool Fatima, when I first met you I was scared of you, but I’m not now.”
I can understand how fear is instilled in some people, particularly with the constant media bashing of Islam. People are scared because they don’t know me. They don’t know why I hold onto my faith so tightly, and because they do not know, their fear grows, which naturally leads to bigotry and racism. I am tired of constantly feeling the need to justify myself and my faith. I want society to see me from the inside, see my achievements, my values; I don't want be judged for what's covering my hair.
We live in Australia and should pride ourselves with the diversity and multiculturalism that exists on our shores. I love the fact that I have friends from so many cultures, with different beliefs and different ways; just like fruit salad. We were all created on this earth by One Creator, as brothers and sisters of humanity, so why put up barriers?
Having said that, I am grateful for each and every experience, regardless of it being good or bad, as I have learnt many valuable lessons from the worst of circumstances. Every setback and challenge has opened up doors for me and taught me more about myself, my faith and further reaffirmed what I stood for. Any moment can offer you a wealth of opportunities and growth no matter how weak you think you are. You just need to seize and enjoy the moment before it passes.
You can see Fatima's image at Laverton Community Hub, Altona Library and Altona North Library