Fridays after Christchurch

The Muslim community in Sydney feels the impacts of the Christchurch massacre

Artwork by Amelia Mertha

I. Fridays

Fridays are a combination of chaos and serenity in our home. Lining up for the shower as the hot water supply scrambles to keep up. Frantically ironing baba’s shalwar kameez with clear-cut precision so the guys at the mosque don’t make a comment. It’s the fragrance of ittar wafting through the hallway as baba does the head count. We all run out single file, hoping we make it before the first call.

Fridays are “can the brother with the white Camry please clear the driveway,” young boys shoving expensive sneakers at the top of the shoe cupboard so they don’t get trampled on — or worse yet, stolen.

Fridays are aunties blocking narrow hallways with stories about someone else’s daughter getting married, while uncles wage debates on world affairs and cricket. It is little girls clutching at their fathers’ legs, haphazardly trying to keep the hijabs from slipping off their heads, again.

Fridays begin with the nervous teenage boy, clearing his throat as he tries to begin the athaan. The clamour of voices begins to subside and huddles assemble into lines, packed like sardines from shoulder to shoulder. The elderly set up their chairs near the back. The children sprawl themselves in their parents’ laps.

Jummah  begins with pin drop silence. We reflect on our misgivings and ask for forgiveness, we pray for our brothers and sisters in unison and we thank our Lord for all that we have been given.

“Friday is the best of days.”
“There is no day more virtuous than Friday.”
–  Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)


II. Mourning

We don’t get to mourn like normal people. Sadness comes in waves; it rolls in as the numbers increase, it rolls in when the numbers are given faces, names, stories, identities — a Muslim identity.

Despair strikes as we realise they are family, they are our kin. It could have been us. It is personal.  The pain escapes from their souls and spreads itself through every one of us.

It is an assault on our identities and our existence, and we are scared. We won’t stop rebelling by continuing to exist, we will occupy spaces, we will wear our hijabs — yet now I feel my head won’t be held up as high. This is the first time I have truly felt unsafe because of my Muslim identity; before it was words, now it is physical. Now, it feels like someone may actually hit the target.

But in truth, I am mostly exhausted. I am not privileged with only sadness to process. I carry the burden of fear for my safety, helplessness that our voices aren’t being heard, anger that I am told to defend my existence every other day — but when my existence is being violated, no one is defending me.

We are told that verily with hardship comes ease. Our brothers and sisters went to greet their creator and have returned to him. They have gone as martyrs and I try to take comfort in that. I see forgiveness and serenity in the faces of widows, children, parents and friends who begin to lay their loved ones to rest, and pray that they will reunite with them again.

We will stand shoulder to shoulder with them on this Friday and the Fridays to come.


III. Speak

Politicians used Islamophobia as bargaining chips. The media profited from us by normalising it. We consumed it, we ignored it, we got used to it. White supremacy weaponised it under the banner of ‘freedom of speech’ and yet no one believed us when we called it a threat, because we were the threat.

We’ve both been put in the spotlight and kept out of it. Spoken on, for and about, but never to. So I speak and I write out of rebellion, protest and healing. I need you to listen.

Do not tell me this was shocking, isolated or unexpected. Do not tell me to calm down. Do not tell me to stay strong. Do not watch as we get berated on buses. Do not dismiss us when we call out white supremacy. Do not turn the page and forget this happened. This is a cycle perpetuating itself with othering linked together by complicity.

Your words matter
Your actions matter
Your silence matters too
I can hear it.