Islamophobia: the other bane of my existence (close after peak hour trains and lining up at the myki machine).
Jokes aside, islamophobia has always been part of the background noise in the reality of almost every muslim person living in the west. That is, it presents in the undertones of society, in the way people address a woman in a headscarf, or the way they look at a middle eastern man from the corners of their eyes with an almost-reflex kind of disgust forming on their faces. Sometimes though, it comes to the foreground. It hits home. It translates from a Florida billboard to the ground we walk on.
While scrolling through the “trending” subjects on my newsfeed (and no, not my facebook newsfeed) a story about an anti-islamic billboard reading “Islam Bloody Islam Doomed by its Doctrine” caught my attention and although I am not usually drawn the such things, as a result of the events of the past week in which somebody had decided to chalk the ground of the University of Melbourne with hate speech targeted at Muslims and mosques parading as freedom of speech, it resonated.
When the page for the entire story opened up though, I noticed that the two incidents shared more than just islamophobia. In the case of the Florida billboard, the placement of hate speech in a public place worked against itself; instead of perpetuating more hatred, it became the driving force in what can be described as a movement of support for those being targeted by such behaviour.
Just under a week prior, at the University i have called my second home for just under five years, the student union held a chalking event in response to the comments found on the pavement. They called the event “chalk for diversity” and indicated it was a direct response to our resident islamophobes challenge to dispute his or her freedom of speech.
The event, which was organised for a few days after the initial incident (worry not, the comments were washed away so quickly that there aren’t any photos of it even happening: shout out to the vice chancellor) was not only a retaliation, but was inclusive of all cultures and religions on campus. Our student body had decided to fight the initial attempts at division with an overwhelming sense of unity. The overwhelming turnout and the subsequent plethora of colour and diversity on our campus grounds is a tribute to everything that makes our little cultural mixing pot at the bottom end of the world beautiful.
This week, both Florida and Melbourne stepped up their games to show us that our goodness will triumph over evil, especially when it challenges us and if only for that small fact, it is proving to be a good time to be alive.