Ever since the Lindt Street Raid, Islamophobia has flared into quite a force on the Australian political scene more than ever. In recent months, we have seen the rise of Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front on one side, and the coalition of various organisations under the banner of Campaign Against Racism & Fascism.
However, we should never underestimate the value of grassroots activism. First, on the day of the Raid, on a Brisbane train, a young woman removed her hijab when she heard news of the incident. When Rachael Jacobs, Greens candidate for Brisbane, saw this, it prompted her to respond. Her simple act of kindness in offering to ride with her sparked the #illridewithyou Campaign (see #illridewithyou) It’s amazing how she said, “What good is one small action against an avalanche of ignorance?” Well, when someone stands up personally for what they believe in, the message can speak louder than even mass crowds with placards and screaming (not to say these things are bad in themselves).
A few months back now, an incident occurred in a Sydney Train in which based purely on a woman’s attire, a lady began to verbally abuse her, accusing her and her partner of supporting ISIS.
Now, consider – if Eden had stayed silent, both the Islamophobe and the victims would assume that everyone on the train tacitly approves of the bullying, and hence not only would the victims end up feeling unwelcome in their own neighbourhood, but also the Islamophobe would be emboldened to do it again to someone else. In the worst case, the victims will feel so unwelcome that they could move somewhere else, and then the Islamophobes will see that their tactics are working and will then definitely repeat them on more and more other victims.
But simply by someone like Eden speaking up, the entire psychological flow can take a different course. Now no one is sure which side those who stayed silent actually sympathize with in their hearts, and so at the very least the Islamophobe cannot achieve the illusion of representing the neighbourhood in general. More importantly, the victims will know that they are not alone, and in particular that there are non-Muslims willing to defend them, so that they will not feel that they must seek support only from other Muslims in the neighbourhood (which leads to self-segregation), but instead will be encouraged to contribute to the neighbourhood community as a whole.