Scarves in Solidarity
In the wake of the unconscionable massacre of 50 innocent people in New Zealand, I was left reeling and feeling helpless, along with many others. I’m an American transplant living in Australia and appreciate the “we’re all in it together” attitude here, especially surrounding Australia’s own worst gun massacre in 1996.
What made this one different was the target. Not just open firing at a collected group of people along the likes of Las Vegas, but a religious target, Muslims.
Let me clear where I stand on religion before I go any further. I am not affiliated with any religion, and I hold myself to standards I expect within society. I have Muslim friends, my daughters have had Muslim school teachers, they themselves have friends who are Muslim, in my business I have Muslim customers and colleagues. I believe hate is derived from fear, especially of what you don’t understand, and when you’ve grown to know people on a one-on-one basis, their religious affiliation falls away and the true person emerges. Everything falls away when you truly get to know someone; religion or absence of, race, culture, gender, socio-economic status, and so on. It’s only when we take people for themselves that we gain understanding.
When I learned of the movement Scarves in Solidarity, I quickly realised I could do something to show my support for the community that has been on the receiving end of attacks, denials, bans, and phobias, merely for outwardly expressing their religion through modest means of wearing a hijab. On 22 March, 2019, supporters of the community that was so ravaged most recently within the week, were to wear head scarves as a symbolic gesture of respect, inclusiveness, and love. I struggled at first with whether it was culturally appropriate, but was willing to step out of my comfort zone to demonstrate my personal support for the Muslim community.
The scarf I chose was obvious. On a trip to New Zealand in 2017, I bought a gorgeous ivory scarf with black silver ferns as a keepsake. I wrapped my head and told my girls why I was wearing it, and walked them in to school. The reaction was mixed. Mostly people were surprised, and I got a few dirty looks from male parents. It really does take people aback to be confronted by a head scarf and that amazed me. And then, standing in my oldest daughter’s line, at least five of her classmate friends came up and told me they were Muslim but didn’t wear head scarves. It dawned on me how much easier they must have it to not outwardly show their religion, and to be taken on face value as human beings. Whereas those that are the most devout are persecuted?
I later went to AusPost where all the staff know me because of my business, and I saw my favourite customer service person, and while her initial reaction was one of surprise, we carried on conversation over our kids and I was never asked why I was wearing the head scarf. From there, I went to Coles to get groceries. People moved out of my way, some stared hard at me, yet the cashier was the one I was surprised by. He was pierced and tatted out with all things satanic and unlucky, and gave me a good once over before ringing up my groceries. But I was my usual self, starting a conversation, packing my own bag, and asking for Stikeez for the kids. He started chatting with me, as did the person behind me, and gave me extra Stikeez as I walked away. I left the store smiling.
I stepped out of my comfort zone, to step into another’s shoes, and it was so fulfilling. I truly believe the majority of people in the world are good people who don’t wish harm on others. I even posted to @scarvesinsolidarity on Instagram to show my support, and the response was unbelievable. The community that feels so vulnerable right now had an ally, and I heard from people in Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, and Australia, thanking me. A simple gesture born from my own helplessness meant so much to others. It was easy on my part to do this one thing, and if it could ease troubled minds during this time, it’s one step forward for us all.