Image: Geelong / Marcus Wong / Wikimedia Commons
Until yesterday, we were operating on daylight saving time here in Australia. That means longer evenings, kids zipping about on their bikes, and parents hosing their lawns and waving cheerily at their neighbours while waiting for their children to return safe and sound.
But in the case of three Geelong girls – Nadia Ali-Ahmad, Walija Iqbalali and Aima Sadiq-Ali, aged 15, 12 and 10, respectively – who were out enjoying the last bit of warmth in the local park before heading home to their mothers, that’s not how it happened.
In a startlingly vicious attack, a roving crew of around a dozen or so delinquents – aged themselves between 7 and 16 – pelted the trio with rocks, ripped their hijabs off their heads and hurled racial slurs which are too revolting to repeat here.
When one of the victims desperately dug out her mobile phone to call for help, it was yanked from her hands and smashed to smithereens. At one point, a parent did show up, but egged on the attack instead of putting a stop to it.
Thankfully, all three girls emerged, dazed and stumbling, with only minor injuries, but have since admitted that they’re too scared to walk down the street.
And who can blame them?
When I was ten, I didn’t have to worry about being racially vilified while playing on the swings. And I certainly wasn’t forced to flee my home in search of safety only to be met with open hostility rather than open arms.
As I scanned the headlines – most of my pals are Geelong-based, so their comments and shares were popping up in my feed – I was struck more than anything by a sense of déjà vu. Haven’t we seen this before?
Whether they happen to take place in parks or on public transport, incidents like these all bear the same hallmark. As Mariam Veiszadeh, president of the Islamophobia Register Australia, reminded everyone, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. And it probably won’t be the last.
“We are increasingly seeing reports of women and children being targeted,” Ms Veiszadeh announced in a press release posted to her organization’s official Facebook page, which sits at more than 12,000 followers. "News of this incident comes amidst a global political landscape in which islamophobia is becoming increasingly mainstream… people feel more emboldened to engage in a manner that is prejudicial towards Muslims.” Here, here.
With the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and now Lahore, the international community is well and truly on edge. Some are inevitably going to take advantage of that and use it as an opportunity to lash out at anyone they deem other.
But that doesn’t make it okay or excusable. And that’s a message we need to get across as loudly and vehemently as possible. Even if that means playing whack-a-mole every time the bigots rear their heads. It’s the least we can do.Support Villainesse