I've reached a fork in the road of my parenting journey. Should I warn my daughter, who is starting kindergarten next year, that there will be people in the world, possibly even in her class at school, who will hate her? Or should I allow her to live in blissful ignorance of the venomous anger that will eventually be headed her way?
Preparation or oblivion while it lasts? A choice that has to be made because my daughter is Muslim.
Every day the media is filled with sensationalist, vitriolic nonsense. The far-right is given an unchallenged platform from which to spread half-truths and completely unbacked claims, and it's disguised as free speech and patriotism, igniting a mob mentality amongst the uneducated and ignorant. Suddenly the Muslim community is trying to take away Christmas, impose Sharia Law upon all Australian citizens, and ban our beloved bacon. They have apparently become a threat to our way of life.
But the truth of it, and what people don't understand when they buy into this dangerous narrative, the real, honest truth is what I see every single day in my home.
I see the man I fell in love with because he treated me like a lady. I see a family who consider me as one of their own despite my different cultural and religious background, and who never made me feel anything but loved and accepted. I see a daddy, teaching his children the love, tolerance, kindness and respect that Islam has taught him. I see him spending time with his little girl, baking cakes during Ramadan even though he is fasting. I see him raising our son and daughter as feminists just like him. I see our extended families coming together to celebrate Ramadan, Eid, Christmas and Easter, while our kids get to enjoy the best bits of both worlds. I see us working together as a team, despite our religious differences, to raise children who will respect themselves and others and embrace the differences that make this amazing country so unique.
But unfortunately not everyone chooses to see what I see.
The sad thing about humanity is that there will always be people who look for the negative. They feed off hate, intolerance, rejection of anything that is different from them. And because my incredibly loving, clever, outrageously funny little girl happens to be a brown-skinned Muslim of Middle Eastern descent, she will eventually become a victim of this loathing.
So what do I do?
Do I give her the heads up and help her learn some coping skills so she is as prepared as possible? Or do I let her continue living in her sweet innocence, thinking the whole world is out there waiting to be her friend, until the day she comes home crying because someone told her she is bad, evil, scum?
Or do I hope against all hope that the good parts of humanity, the love, the kindness, the goodness in people will prevail and that she can grow up in a world where character and conduct are valued over race and religion.
This post first appeared on July 11, 2016.