A Young Muslim Woman Shares Her Thoughts.

18.03.19

My name is Nida Darr and I am 26 year’s old.

As both a Pakistani immigrant from the UK and a Muslim woman brought up in a Muslim household, the terror attack in Christchurch has left me feeling confused and deeply saddened. I don’t pray five times a day, I show my legs in summer and I’m engaged to a non-Muslim man, but I am a Muslim and I believe in Allah. I am also a New Zealander. This is my home. And while I know this wasn’t a personal attack on me, I somehow feel like it was.

As a child, I regularly went to Jumah with my mother at the Palmerston North Islamic Center and she still attends regularly. It terrifies me that a time I had come to view as the most peaceful part of my week, has somehow put people in danger. I’m scared for my mother’s safety. What’s to say this couldn’t happen in Palmerston North while my mamma is doing her Friday prayers?

The support from my friends, family and community has been amazing, but I am not immune to the racist comments I have seen online. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but when I heard the vulgar language from Australian Senator Fraser Anning who blamed the attack on Muslim immigration, it left me in tears. How can he think this country, my home, brought this upon itself? My Muslim community is so peaceful and participates in New Zealand society just like any other race and yet we are constantly judged based on our beliefs in Allah and the traditions we live by. My family have contributed so positively to our community, from coaching netball teams to volunteering at the local library. Why would anyone be fearful of us? Of course, in every religion there are extremists, and there are extremists in Muslim faith, but the man who committed this heinous act was also an extremist and he was not a Muslim.

Yes I feel hurt and scared, but I also want to tell you I feel loved. Seeing Jacinda Arden comforting the Muslim community in her hijab made me so proud to be a New Zealander. What an incredible example on the global political stage of how to be a strong leader while also displaying empathy. I also feel blessed to have an amazing, non-Muslim fiancé who has been so supportive of my random outbursts of tears and continues to remind me that the actions of one man do not reflect the feelings of a nation.

This experience has given me the courage to not be so dismissive of others ignorance and indifference. Throughout my life, at school, at university and in the workplace, when people have made a rude comment about Islam or a joke about Muslims being terrorists, I’ve often laughed or even added my two cents to the joke out of fear of starting conflict. But if I can’t even stand up for my own religion, how could I possibly expect others to do the same? I remember when I was at university and still wanted to participate in Ramadan (prayer and fasting), I would fast in secrecy because I was so afraid of being judged. I would make up excuses for the entire duration of Ramadan about why I couldn’t meet friends for coffee or lunch, when instead I should have simply explained to them that Ramadan is not about starvation, it is a time for quiet introspection and reflection, a time to be made aware of how blessed we are.

I now understand that if I do not defend my Muslim community by shutting down hate and bigotry or simply educating others, then I am part of the problem.


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club