A mother who wears Islamic head coverings says local Muslims are now suffering more racist abuse than after the September 11 and Bali terrorist attacks.
Nahid Mohamed and her mother are Muslims and both wear a Niqab, where the body and face are covered except for the eyes. Both have lived at Killarney Vale for many decades. Ms Mohamed was born on the Central Coast and went to preschool, primary school and high school in the Killarney Vale district.
But still, it came as a shock when she and her mother were abused for speaking Arabic and wearing a Niqab in a doctor’s surgery last week. Ms Mohamed took the insults for as long as she could before defending herself and her mother.
“As soon as we walked into the surgery you could tell this guy was not happy,” Ms Mohamed said. “Mum started telling me about her trip away in Arabic and he started swearing at us, this went on for 10 or 15 minutes before I said, hello, is there a problem?
“He continued going on about how we should not be in the country and that we should speak English. The receptionist asked us both to be quiet, which was extremely insulting. We sat in silence and Mum whispered what’s happened in the last three weeks?”
ISIS has happened and just like after the September 11 attacks and the Bali bombings, Muslims like Ms Mohamed and her mother are targets again.
“It’s way worse, every media report affects us. I was horrified at the images I was seeing on television and I knew it had implications for every Muslim in Australia. I thought oh my God this is going to be disastrous and it was.”
Ms Mohamed’s parents left Egypt where her father was studying medicine, specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, for England in the early 60s. From there they had a choice between migrating to the US or Australia and they chose Australia.
They had two sons and Ms Mohamed was born in Australia where her father practised at Killarney Vale for 17 years and later Kanwal Medical Centre for 17 years. In between Killarney Vale and Kanwal, the family moved back to Egypt where Ms Mohamed met her husband Mahmoud and learned a lot more about her Islam faith.
“I would say the family practised Islam at a very moderate level, we didn’t eat pork or drink alcohol and prayed five times a day, but I didn’t know much about Islam and I was hungry for knowledge.” She began to wear the Niqab and continued to when the family moved back to Killarney Vale.
When her son started school at Brooke Avenue she was happy to give talks to the kids about her religion. She was soon giving talks at many schools and participating in Harmony Days, explaining the Islam religion, something she really enjoyed and still does.
“I look different, I get that, you have to acknowledge I am in a minority and I expect questions, I love questions and if I’m in a queue at the supermarket and don’t have time, I carry brochures which I give out.
“I used to be intimated when people starred or looked at me, I was quite closed and introverted but when I began speaking at schools, it helped me become confident. I wear a Niqab because I want to be the best person I can be religiously.
“I just ask people not to judge a book by its cover, don’t judge us on individuals you are seeing on television. These individuals form their own groups for all sorts of reasons, some are desperate individuals, some are troubled individuals. We just ask people to be their natural selves with us, we welcome questions.”