THE BLOG

I Have Been Australian For 26 Years And Muslim For 6 Years

I hold the same values as I did before I became Muslim.

30/08/2016 9:48 AM AEST | Updated August 30, 2016 12:45
Virginia Star
"Living in Bundaberg, I have personally experienced numerous bigoted and racist attacks by people who call themselves patriots."

I am a mother, a farmer's wife, a daughter and an Australian.

I was born and raised in Bundaberg, a regional Queensland city. I grew up in a working-class family with my mother and father who instilled in all of us four kids to be independent, make our own choices in life and be accepting of others -- no exceptions.

I have been an Australian for 26 years and Muslim for six years. I hold the same values as I did before I became Muslim.

I attended public schools and finished senior high school. I worked in administration and customer service jobs before meeting my husband in 2009. He was also born in Bundaberg and his family is of Turkish origin. They are local farmers.

My husband's parents were both born in Turkey and my husband lived there for five years as a child.

Even though he too was born in Bundaberg and we both attended the same Bundaberg high school, we didn't meet until I was 19 years old through mutual friends. At first I didn't realise he was Muslim. One of my friends pointed out to me his mother wore a scarf (Hijab).

We had "the talk".

Once I knew more about his background, we both realised staying together and wanting to get married meant we were going to face challenges. We both needed our families to give their support. This was difficult at first, more so for my husband as he had chosen to marry someone outside of their culture. We eventually broke down any barriers -- we now live a lifestyle that reflects a mixture of both our childhood influences and we raise our two children that way.

I understand social and economic diversity. I have seen people struggle in the Bundaberg community through the work my mother has done for many years with families and youth experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. I have spent a lot of time volunteering with that team and I know our region is hurting. Bundaberg has high unemployment, many unable to access affordable accommodation and make ends meet as they are low-income families on welfare and pensions. Drugs and crime are high in our region.

These families, the pensioners and young people are ignored by our governments.

When it came time to vote in the recent election, I had limited choices. Hinkler only had four candidates stand for this election. Two from the major parties who were failing the Bundaberg state and Hinkler federal electorates, one minority party and one candidate for the far right, extremist One Nation Party.

I voted for the minority party candidate because I wanted someone to make this government accountable and represent all Australians.

Living in Bundaberg, I have personally experienced numerous bigoted and racist attacks by people who call themselves patriots. I wasn't shocked to hear that almost 15 percent of the voting public had voted for Pauline Hanson. I wonder if it is just a coincidence or is it because this electorate counted the second highest One Nation Party votes in the recent election?

In 2015, I visited Turkey for the first time. My husband's family back in Australia Skyped me every day expecting me to have a huge culture shock. It was overwhelming at times, but while I was there we travelled around like tourists in major cities and also stayed in his grandparent's village in the mountain regions. I don't speak the language, just a few words to get by, but I felt welcomed everywhere we went. I had never travelled overseas before, but people went out of their way to help me. This is the reason I am considering leaving Australia and raising my children in a country that is accepting of people's differences.

At the end of our stay, we visited Gallipoli. While walking along the beaches I absorbed the Australian and Turkish history of war and mateship. It was an emotional day for me. In that moment I felt proud to be Australian.

I came to learn the Turkish people understood many Australian lives were sacrificed and the ANZACs were respected in this foreign land for their bravery. It made me think of my sister serving in the Australian Defence Force, currently deployed in the Middle East, and the foreign women and children the Australian government are holding in detention centres being abused.

It made me think of the growing hate culture against Muslims I'm subjected to, the way our government is failing its citizens and my thoughts of why I no longer feel I fit in living in my own country.

__________
See more of Scarlett's story on Insight, tonight at 8.30pm on SBS.

More On This Topic
Advertisement

FOLLOW HUFFPOST

Advertisement